Good posture is as important to good health as eating well, exercising, and avoiding toxins like drugs and alcohol. Often overlooked as an important part of healthy living, good posture allows you to complete everyday tasks with more energy, less stress, and less fatigue.
Ideal alignment or posture is a position in which all of the joints in the body are balanced when compared to the others. This balanced state gives your body its best mechanically efficient position to allow you to function throughout the day.
Without good posture, your overall health and especially your body will begin to breakdown. Long-term effects of poor posture can include: muscle & joint pain, stiffness, fatigue, digestion problems, and inefficient breathing patterns.
Bad posture can lead to muscles that are chronically stretched or chronically tight. Based on bad body position, these muscles are constantly in a state of dysfunction. Dysfunctional muscles generally do a poor job of contracting and maintaining muscle tone. This means their power to move body parts and contribute to joint stability are compromised, which can lead to injury if challenged.
Your body is designed in such a way to evenly distribute the forces that it encounters on a daily basis. Every time you step, jump, walk, or jump, your body has the task of distributing the reaction forces that you create. Misalignments found in the foot, knee, hip, or more importantly your spine can affect how these forces are distributed. A faulty or misaligned spine can lead to premature degeneration of the discs in your back and can set you up for injury later down the road since the segments above and below the faulty ones have to distribute more force than they can handle.
How Does Poor Posture Happen?
As humans, we are creatures of habit. Therefore, bad posture often manifests itself as a result of our everyday life. Some examples of habits that can lead to poor posture are:
- Watching television, using a computer, or using a mobile device (phone, tablet) for long periods of time
- More and more people work long hours while seated, especially at a desk or in front of a computer screen.
- Previous history of a fall or accident (knee, ankle, low back injury, etc.)
- Poor sleeping habits (sleeping on stomach)
- Poor sleep support (bad mattress, poor pillow)
- Old, unsupportive footwear
- Poorly designed work spaces (desk)
- Slouching while seated
What Happens If I Don’t Address My Poor Posture Habits?
The toll poor posture has on the body may not be evident right away. However, as we age the effect it has can come at a great cost.
- Decrease your range of motion: joints will no longer function as they once did due to chronically tight or shortened muscles.
- Pain and Discomfort: Forward head posture can lead to an increase in headaches. The occurrence of muscle knots or trigger points will increase, leading to more instances of aching muscles or shooting pain.
- Difficulty breathing: Your body relies on certain muscles to breath. Chronically tight breathing muscles can lead to decreased lung capacity which can have an effect on overall health by reducing the amount of oxygen you take in with each breath.
- Low back pain: One of the most common signs of poor posture.
- Premature breakdown of joints: increased forces and demand on joints can cause them to wear down at an earlier age.
What Can be Done?
Fortunately, most misalignments and muscular imbalances can be addressed by visiting your chiropractor. By pinpointing which segments of your body are being taxed heavily due to poor posture, your chiropractor can help to re-establish good posture habits by adjusting misalignments, stretching tight muscles, strengthening muscle imbalances, and reinforcing good posture habits.
Good Posture Tips
When Sitting: Set up an ergonomic work space. Chair should have proper lumbar support, desk should be at elbow height, and the computer screen should be at eye level.
Don’t slouch in your chair, or on the couch. Sit upright with your shoulders back and your chin up.
When Sleeping: Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Try sleeping on your side with your knees slightly bent. For added comfort add a thin pillow between your knees. Avoid bulky pillows that crank your neck while sleeping. Try to pick a pillow that when sleeping on your side, is about the same height of your shoulder. This allows our head to lay in a neutral position when sleeping.
When bending or lifting: always lift with your legs! Stand close to the object and bend down by hinging at the hips to straddle the object. Never twist at the waist or bend forward at the same time. This puts incredible stress on the discs in the spine which can lead to herniation.
Stretch: A good posture relief exercise that you can try is called a ‘Brugger’
Sit or stand up straight. Squeeze shoulder blades together and and bring them down. Chin up, with a proud chest. Turn your hands so that your palms are up. Inhale deeply, and exhale slowly. Hold position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
Take breaks: Every 1 hr of sustained posture (sitting, standing, laying down) take 10 mins to get up and move around.