Poor posture is something most of us struggle with, especially in the digital age of tablets, cell phones and laptops. A large part of the population also sits at a desk for their job which can lead to chronic bad posture. Most of us are aware of our bad posture, but how important is it really? Do we fully understand the full effects that chronic bad posture can have on our bodies? This article will outline some of the most important effects of chronic bad posture and then we will discuss how to maintain good posture.
Low Back pain
Many people don't know this, but bad posture can contribute to low back pain. When the head is in a forward position, sitting in front of the body instead of over top of the shoulders, it actually causes the head to effectively weigh more and thus creates an extra strain on the spine that can lead to problems in the low back. These problems can include disc herniations and sciatica, low back pain, tight and sore spine muscles or degeneration of the joints in the low back and spine. All of these problems, if they already exist, can be improved upon by working on your posture, but of course posture is not the only cause of these types of issues. It is important to get these problems treated by a professional such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist who can also address your posture issues and help correct them.
When your posture is poor it can also place a great deal of stress and strain on your neck. Since our necks are generally more prone to injury and pain, this is where people feel it the most. The neck or cervical spine can also become a source for headaches, since many of the nerves and blood vessels that go to the brain, pass through the neck. The main area that can become tight and restricted with poor posture, is the suboccipital area, or the area right beneath the base of your skull. This area can become incredibly tight and compressed if posture is not maintained properly. There are many more causes of headaches, but this one is quite common. It is important to get your neck looked at if you do have headaches, and chances are your posture will need some work.
Posture can have a profound impact on our moods. When we are sad or lonely we tend to hunch forward and move our bodies towards a curled up position. Or even when we don't feel well, we tend to hunch forward and want to just curl up. When we fail to practice good posture, our bodies can become stuck in this position and so can our mood. Someone who is depressed rarely has good posture and if we feel down, sometimes just standing up straight, bringing our shoulders back, and taking a few deep breaths can help improve our mood. Of course, there are many other reasons our mood can become depressed and it is important to seek out the help of a trained therapist if this is the case, but it won't hurt to practice good posture too and see how it can make a difference.
As our bodies hunch forward into a bad postural position our shoulders will shift forward as well creating a rounded shoulder posture. This position can lead to dysfunction and pain in the shoulder, including impingement and rotator cuff problems. If you try hunching forward and then raising your arm above your head, you will notice that it doesn't have its full range of motion. Now try sitting up straight and raising your arm again, you will notice that the range of motion improves dramatically because the shoulder is not sitting in a rounded position, but instead it is in a proper position where it can move freely.
How to correct posture
Posture is something that takes a long time to correct, especially if it has been bad for a while. It will also require you to work on strengthening and stretching certain areas and it is generally a good idea to see a chiropractor too. A chiropractor can address the spinal issues associated with bad posture and provide treatments that will allow you to adopt and maintain good posture easier. Usually the spine becomes locked when someone has chronic bad posture, so taking care of this is an important step in the correction process.
The other way to correct posture is to continually make yourself aware of your posture by placing some sort of cue at your workstation. This cue could be a simple sticker on the corner of your computer monitor that reminds you to sit up straight when you see it. You can also be cued to correct your posture by red traffic lights, or something else that you will take notice of during your day and remind you to sit up straight.
When practicing good posture, bring your shoulders back, stick your chest out, look up and take some deep breaths as you hold this position. It really is that simple, and doing this more and more throughout the day can change your posture over time.
Dr. Spenser Dougley DC, FR, FRCms