How to Improve Posture and Reduce Low Back Pain – Harvard

Is there anyone who hasn‘t suffered from, or isn’t suffering form low back pain? I remember years ago when I was working in an office and they passed out little lumbar pillows to use while seated at our desks. I thought it was funny, but did it anyway. A week later, my low back pain had evaporated and my mocking laugh had morphed into a smile of pain-free comfort. Little things mean a lot.

Harvard’s HEALTHbeat addresses lower back pain in their latest missive. “Repetitive activities at work or home, such as sitting at a computer or lifting and carrying, may produce tension and muscle tightness that result in a backache.


Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to prevent this sort of problem. General physical fitness and a healthy weight are important. But one surprisingly simple strategy can go a long way: Paying attention to your posture.

“Posture is the way you hold your body while standing, sitting, or performing tasks like lifting, bending, pulling, or reaching. If your posture is good, the bones of the spine — the vertebrae — are correctly aligned.

“You can improve your posture — and head off back pain — by practicing some imagery and a few easy exercises.

Imagery. Think of a straight line passing through your body from ceiling to floor (your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be even and line up vertically). Now imagine that a strong cord attached to your breastbone is pulling your chest and rib cage upward, making you taller. Try to hold your pelvis level — don’t allow the lower back to sway. Think of stretching your head toward the ceiling, increasing the space between your rib cage and pelvis. Picture yourself as a ballerina or ice skater rather than a soldier at attention.

Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.

Upper-body stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Hold this position for 20–30 seconds. Relax.

Arm-across-chest stretch. Raise your right arm to shoulder level in front of you and bend the arm at the elbow, keeping the forearm parallel to the floor. Grasp the right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest so that you feel a stretch in the upper arm and shoulder on the right side. Hold for 20 seconds; relax both arms. Repeat to the other side. Repeat three times on each side.

“Practice these imagery and posture exercises throughout the day. You might try to find a good trigger to help you remember, such as doing one or more of them when you get up from your desk, or right before scheduled breaks and lunch. Soon it will become a habit.”

Last, but not least, they mention the importance of exercise in maintaining a healthy back. Exercise doesn’t just burn calories, it helps us to function better as well as feel better.

You can get their entire write up on low back pain here.

It will help you to understand where back pain comes from and what treatments will likely help you deal with it.



Filed under aging, back pain, posture

4 responses to “How to Improve Posture and Reduce Low Back Pain – Harvard

  1. Tony,

    Great article! At our office, we recommend our patients set an alarm on their phone to go off every hour or so. When it rings, we ask them to get up, stretch, take a few deep breaths, and check on their posture.

    Just being aware of how you are sitting at your desk (such as crossing your legs, or using your shoulder to hold the phone while you type) can help you modify a trigger for back or neck pain.

    Of course, we also recommend keeping regular appointments with your chiropractor.

    Thanks again for the quick and informative read.

    Yours in Health,


    • Many thanks for your kind words.

      Thanks also for the very useful suggestions regarding posture. As an old wire service reporter I can’t tell you how many chiropractor visits I had because I took dictation with the phone held against my ear by my shoulder. That’s why those wonderful headsets were invented.

      I agree with your suggestion about regular chiropractor appointments, too.


  2. Interesting! and yeah little things mean a lot! Back pain is a common problem these days and simple exercises like this can help to a certain extent.


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