The Effects Of Poor Posture And How To Correct It

Poor posture is responsible for a number of ailments that can seriously affect your health and happiness. Modern life means that many of us are desk bound, hunched over a computer for hours and hours, commuting to and from work, and spending our evenings sitting even more in order to relax by either watching TV or reading.

It is easy to get into poor habits with our posture, sitting slumped with a rounded lower back may actually feel a lot more comfortable than sitting with a straight back. This is because your body has become accustomed to adopting this position and sitting up straight will require much more effort from the supporting muscles. In fact slouching generally doesn't cause any discomfort at the time of doing so, but rather takes its toll over time causing tension, straining the muscles and soft tissue.

poor posture at deskPermanent poor posture can cause a number of different health and well being related problems, including one or more of the following:

  • Chronic and acute pain of the back, neck, and shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Knee, hip, and back injuries
  • Respiration problems
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle atrophy and weakness
  • Digestive problems
  • Sciatica
  • Formation of varicose veins or “spider” veins
  • Impingement and nerve compression
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Back and Neck Pain

Common causes of back and neck pain are poor posture (whether sitting or standing) and repetitive movements. Working from an office desk in a sedentary environment and adapting poor posture is often the culprit of upper and lower back pain. Postures that can cause back and neck problems include; cradling the phone in one ear, sitting lopsided, sitting cross legged, hunching forward and many other incorrect postures.

One of the most frequent causes of neck pain is extending the head and shoulders too far forwards. The head is heavy and its weight in a forward position, can with time, irritate the small facet joints in the neck plus the ligaments and soft tissues, in some cases this can lead to more serious problems in later life such as degenerative disc disease. This position is usually accompanied by a rounded upper back and forward reaching shoulders, causing shoulder pain as well as further aggravating the neck problem.

Many of us also stand with incorrect posture, either slouching our shoulders and curving our backs, sticking our bottoms out, leaning on one leg or standing with a flat back. All of these can lead to long term discomfort and problems.

If you want to be active and healthy in later life, maintaining good posture is essential, long term poor posture can result in a permanent curvature of the spine: this puts the spine under a great deal of pressure and may result in a number of conditions and illnesses in later life. Ultimately adopting long term good posture can increase your life expectancy and reduce the risk of a number of illnesses and conditions.

Digestion, Internal Organs and Breathing

It should come as no surprise that poor posture constricts internal organs which can cause an array of different issues. Several digestive problems have been attributed to slouched posture, these include; constipation, acid reflux and even hernias in some cases, caused by undue compression of the internal organs and of the abdomen, whereas correct posture permits these organs to maintain their natural position.

When the upper body is rounded or in a slouched position, the rib cage and diaphragm muscles are unable to expand properly. The exchange of oxygen between the lungs and the blood is constricted, meaning the body is required to work harder and more effort is needed to breathe and speak. This can result in feelings of fatigue.

Adapting certain negative postures can also lead to nerve impingements, lessening the ability of nerves to relay signals between our brain and body. Adequate posture is paramount for many types of exercises and especially for athletes due to an increase in the demand for oxygen. Have you ever seen a top sprinter slouching? The answer is no, definitely not. Many attribute the success of top athletes such as Usain Bolt to his posture or form when running.

positive posture

Poor Body Language: Your Overall Appearance and How Others View You

We all know that first impressions do count and your posture says a lot about your personality. A strong confident person will undoubtedly adopt good posture, holding their head up, and standing tall with an open chest. Slumped posture indicates poor body language, this can negatively affect a variety of things. A prospective employee for example, with poor posture can inadvertently give off a number of negative cues such as:

  • lack of confidence
  • laziness/lack of motivation
  • arrogance (in the case of leaning forwards too much)
  • lack of personal care

This can negatively affect an individual's chances of getting a new job during an interview, regardless of how good they are on paper. The same can be said of your personal life, if you don't hold yourself well, others will make assessments on you based on your posture.

A hunched back may also make you appear older than you actually are, crooked backs and poor posture is associated with a lack of flexibility, deteriorating health and ultimately elderly people. A 70 year old man that maintains correct posture when standing or sitting will give off a much more youthful appearance than one that walks and sits with a rounded back.

Slouching Can Cause Negative Feelings and Emotions

Some studies suggest that body posture can actually be important in maintaining positive emotions. A recent study was published in Health Psychology, where researchers monitored the effects of slumped or straightened posture on a group of 74 people. Each participants was strapped into their assigned posture, either slumped or straightened and then asked to perform a series of tasks. Their blood pressure and heart rate was constantly measured throughout. The results showed the following:

"Upright participants reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to slumped participants. Linguistic analysis showed slumped participants used more negative emotion words, first-person singular pronouns, affective process words, sadness words, and fewer positive emotion words and total words during the speech. Upright participants had higher pulse pressure during and after the stressor."

You can read the study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25222091

Poor posture causes constriction of the internal organs, this prevents them from working optimally as we have mentioned above, resulting in a poor mood.

standing on coast

Increasing Self Esteem and General Well Being

As fore mentioned, improving your posture can bring a great variety of benefits, not only for your health but also for your general well being and self esteem. Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School demonstrated through her studies that by adopting certain postures, not only do we look more powerful to other people, but it can in fact also make us feel more powerful. Ms Cuddy illustrates her point by highlighting a direct link between standing tall with an increase in testosterone levels and a decrease in cortisol levels (a stress related hormone). Both male and female participants that adopted a power pose, arms and legs stretched out, showed an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol. This hormone pattern of high testosterone and low cortisol can often be found in effective leaders.

Factors That Contribute Towards Poor Posture

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor ergonomic work station
  • Injury
  • Illness and certain conditions such as Parkinson's disease
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Occupational demands
  • Low level of general fitness
  • Lack of awareness of correct posture

Correcting Posture Mistakes

correcting posture

It can be difficult to correct posture once poor posture has become a well established norm for the body. It may be worthwhile seeking the help of a health professional to do so. Once you identify the issue, you can concentrate on correcting the problem and maintaining good posture. Regular exercise and core strengthening can be extremely beneficial when attempting to rectify postural problems. Having corrected your posture, sitting in the correct position may feel uncomfortable to begin with, as your muscles are not conditioned to support you in this position. You will need to retrain your muscles in able for them to support you.

Tips for Improving Your Posture

  • Become more aware of your current posture improvement needs by identifying the problem and learning what is needed to correct it.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Strengthen your core
  • Invest in an ergonomic workstation and follow the advice below on ergonomics and neck and back pain
  • Practise yoga as it encourages good posture
  • Be as active and mobile as you possibly can, if you are able to walk to work instead of using the car/train/bus, then do it!
  • Stand tall and keep a positive outlook

Ergonomics and Neck & Back Pain

Office work and sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time is one of the leading causes of back and neck pain and poor posture. In order to minimise these negatives effects, the following steps should be taken when sitting at a desk:

  • The monitor should be positioned so that the top third of the screen is at eye level
  • Elbows should be at your side
  • Feet should be flat on the floor
  • The back should be aligned against the back of the chair
  • Forearms should be parallel to the floor when typing
  • Make sure you sit straight. Symmetry is essential! Do not rotate one side of your body to one side more than the other
  • Do not hunch forward to look at the screen
  • Take regular breaks

Nerve Pain

nerve pain

Back Pain

back pain

Treatments

pain treatment