In real estate it is location, location, location. But when it comes to the spine, it is posture, posture, and posture! But what does this word actually mean?
Posture comes from the Latin Root ‘positura‘ which means “position, station’ and portrays the idea of not moving. Let’s get one thing straight, we are ALWAYS moving. Even if it looks like you aren’t moving, we are. Ironically, when we are trying not to move, our spines actually move more. Let me try to explain.
Static loads of the spine (that is, a load that is constant and in one direction without motion) causes the spine to move more than when the spine is moving. What? Yes, when we are in one spot, the discs of our spines compress more. The spine is a hydraulic machine. In a 2005 research paper, Little and Khalsa looked at static load vs. dynamic load of the discs and found that creep (a term used to describe slow movement) occurred more with a stationary position. If I could use a simple analogy, our discs behave like a slow leaking car tire but when the car is in motion, it works to self-pump so it doesn’t lose height.
Often patients complain to me that their back and neck symptoms come on when they are in one position like sitting or standing. Research is now revealing that the discs, which are the dynamic structures that resist compression of the approximation of vertebra, lose their height quicker when under a static load in one position. And if a disc has some internal damage, like an annular tear (aka, posterior annular disruption), we are finding that the disc will lose its height even quicker.
Below you can see a model that I have created to help understand the concept of facet shingling and strain. Chiropractors work to improve spacing of this facet joint as well as increasing disc heights.
Positioning the spine to minimize height loss is important but even more important is to keep your posture dynamic. Pains that come on while in one position is often a sign of a damaged disc that we know now can be regenerated somewhat if low load treatments are rendered. Explore Chair-care exercise and other strategies to keep your spine from moving too much when you are either standing or sitting.