Most of us spend a good deal of our time on computers, tablets, smart phones or other such devices. In our free time, to get away from technology, we may craft, do woodworking, read a good book or workout. We live and work in a world that sets us up for having poor posture. A lot of the time our heads jut forward, our shoulders are rolled forward, and our spines are hunched back. This puts a lot of stress on the muscles and joints of the upper back (also known as the thoracic spine).
While the neck and lower back are designed more for mobility, the thoracic spine is designed to be very strong and stable to allow us to stand upright and to protect the vital internal organs of the chest. Because this section of the spine has a great deal of stability and limited movement, it generally is not injured as often as the other areas of the spine. With that being said, postural stress on a daily basis tends to have a cumulative effect. Over time, persistent poor posture can put compressive loads on the upper thoracic vertebrae which can lead to the development of an Upper Thoracic Hump, which can devolve into a Dowager Hump if the vertebrae develop compression fractures. Ultimately, this can put stress on your internal organs and even lead to a decrease in lung capacity. In fact, a recent study found that this “hyperkyphotic posture”, as it is called, was associated with a 1.44 greater rate of mortality in seniors.
As chiropractors, we can help correct these problems before they become permanent. Chiropractors specialize in reversing the lack of normal movement in joints and restoring normal muscle balance. Postural issues, such as what I have been describing, lead to tightening of some muscles and weakening of others. The muscles in between your shoulder blades can become like over-used rubber bands. Through the use of exercises and other therapies, normal muscle balance and joint function can be restored. So if you are experiencing upper back pain, you may want to consult a chiropractor.