15 Ways Bad Posture Impacts the Body
Did your parents ever tell you to stand up or sit up straight?
It was pretty annoying... but they were right. Studies show that poor posture can negatively impact your health.
Dr. Kenton Fibel is a family medicine physician who specializes in sports medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Anaheim, California. He mentions that having poor posture puts more stress on certain muscles and joints and forces them to become overworked and fatigued.
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"Many patients with chronic pain can be helped by addressing their poor posture," he adds.
15 Ways How Bad Posture Impacts the Body
#1 - It Can Exacerbate Your Arthritis
Poor posture can cause your spine to become misaligned, causing your knees to be stressed. This can be detrimental to your knees, especially if you have arthritis.
Dr. Chris Wolf is a specialist at Bluetail Medical Group in Chesterfield, Missouri. He states "over time, the malalignment of your spine can worsen the effects of arthritis by putting pressure on one part of the joint, causing pain. That pain can decrease your overall function and quality of life."
#2 - Poor Circulation
It shouldn't be a surprise that sitting in a chair for hours a day with poor posture is bad for you — there's a risk developing or worsening circulation issues you may have.
The poor circulation could lead to varicose veins, which is something women are particularly at risk for.
According to Valentina Sendin, an ergonomic project manager for Kaiser Permanente Southern California, "taking the time to move throughout the day and make postural changes can help you have better posture and help prevent you from serious health issues later in life."
#3 - It Can Cause Varicose Veins
A less obvious effect of bad posture is varicose veins. Improper blood flow can have a detrimental effect throughout your body, including your legs. The poor circulation increases the pressure in these veins, and since they have a thin wall, it can lead to varicose veins.
This can cause discomfort, pain, and restlessness.
#4 - It Can Affect Digestion
Slumping over can compress the space in your abdomen. This essentially squeezes our internal organs and can impair digestion.
For efficient digestion, our stomach and intestines need space to work. Mindfully correcting your posture can help your body process food more efficiently and will improve your nervous system's health.
#5 - It Causes Fatigue
Did you know your energy levels could be affected by your posture?
Dr. Stacey PIerce-Talsma is an associate professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine at Touro University in Vellejo, California. She notes "when we have poor posture, we add tension and compression to structures that weren't meant to bear that weight. This stresses and strains will build up over time and wear down our bones, joints, and ligaments — even changing the way our muscles fire."
She goes on to say that "not only can poor posture add stress and strain, it can cause you to become fatigued more quickly. Poor posture and gait require more energy and work to maintain and compensate. The more efficient we can be with our posture, movement, and gait, the more we can improve our energy efficiency."
#6 - It Can Affect Your Mood
Poor posture has been suggested to negatively affect your mood. A study published in March of 2017 in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found those who adopt an upright posture may increase the positive effect, reduce fatigue, and decrease self-focus in people with mild to moderate depression.
This study took 61 volunteers who had mild to moderate depression. They were asked to recite a speech — known to cause anyone stress. Some of the participants sat with their usual posture, while others sat upright. The group with an upright posture spoke more than the other group and they used fewer first-person singular personal pronouns.
Another study published in 2014 in Health Psychology produced similar results. They took 74 people and randomly assigned them to sit slumped or upright, and were asked to complete a reading task and recite a speech. They found the people who sat upright had higher self-esteem, alertness, better mood, and less fear than those who were sitting slumped over.
#7 - It Can Cause Forward Head Posture
With the increased use of cell phones, many people are starting to have a forward head posture due to slumping over their computer or phone.
This happens when your head is aligned forward in relation to your spine. Mark Gugliotti is an assistant professor of physical therapy at New York Institute of Technology School of Health Professions. He states "ideally, a healthy head and neck relationship would align a person's ear with his or her shoulder when viewing them from the side."
Gugliotti goes on to say "as the head lurches forward over time, the individual may succumb to a myriad of musculoskeletal dysfunctions that impacts various systems of your body.
This can tighten some muscles and weaken others. This can lead to neck pain caused by muscle strain and tension headaches.
#8 - You May Have Jaw Pain
Did you know that poor posture can lead to temporomandibular joint syndrome? It's also known as TMJ.
Poor posture will misalign the spine and cause an improper bite pattern. This can affect your temporomandibular joints — the two joints that connect your jawbone to the temporal bones of your skull.
These joint work similar to a hinge so you can open and close your mouth. The poor posture in your neck and shoulders can cause your delicately balanced joints to become misaligned. A misaligned jaw may pop, lock, cramp, or go into spasms that could result in jaw pain or a difficulty in chewing.
#9 - Posture Can Affect Your Breathing
In order to breathe properly, your diaphragm needs to be able to move and have enough space in your thoracic cavity to properly release and contract with each breath.
For this to happen, you need your body to be lengthened and in proper alignment. Your breath quality is important because we need oxygen to restore and rejuvenate our cells. Breathing fully and deeply promotes a healthy heart, brain, and other vital organs.
Practice taking full breaths and fully contracting and expanding your diaphragm. If your belly doesn't move in and out at least some when you breathe, you may not be breathing deep enough.
#10 - Poor Posture Could Cause Headaches
Are you suffering from daily headaches? Did you know bad posture can contribute to a tight neck which can compromise the natural curvature of your spine?
This can lead to headaches.
According to Dr. Mariam Keramati, who is a physician with the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, "tight neck muscles can send pain radiating up to the head."
Try to check in on your posture as often as you can and start stretching your tight neck and work on strengthening your weak neck muscles — this will help improve your alignment.
#11 - You Can Experience Shoulder and Back Pain
Along with headaches, neck pain, and jaw pain... poor posture can lead to shoulder and back pain.
Poor posture can lead to rotator cuff tendons to press on the coracoacromial arch of your shoulder, which can cause pain when you more or lie on the side of your affected shoulder. If you lift weights, rotator cuff problems are not fun.
Bad posture also can lead to the shortening and contracting of the lumbar muscles — which leads to unhealthy tightness and lower back pain. Back pain can also come from "trying too hard" to maintain an erect position. You are causing your muscles to overwork to maintain that posture. You may suffer from aching and pain in your upper back muscles. It may feel like a burn, too.
#12 - You May Experience Hip, Knee, or Ankle Pain
You've read how poor posture can cause pain in your upper body, but what about your lower body?
Natalie Lovitz, PT, DPT, and Clinical Director of Professional Physical Therapy in New York, NY says "it's hard to believe you can injure your lower extremities while sitting. However, the joints in your lower extremities are very much connected to your spine and posture — literally and figuratively. Altered posture and muscle imbalances caused by poor posture can place strain on your hips, knees, and even feet."
Switch out your standard desk chair for a more ergonomic seat. Try opting for a balance ball chair — you have to work your core muscles to stay upright during the day. This strengthens your back and reduces pressure on your butt from all of the sitting.
They also have balance cushions and wedges if you don't want to go all-out with a balance ball chair.
#13 - Poor Posture Can Ruin Sexual Function
Did you know how we sit can affect our sexual function? Sacral sitting, or sitting with a rounded lower back, can be bad for your sexual health.
According to Isa Herrera who is a physical therapist in New York City, "sacral sitting can have a profound effect on men and women's sexual function because their posture shortens and tightens the pelvic floor muscles.
These are our primary sexual muscles.
When our pelvic floor muscles become tight and weak, they can't exert their power and strength. The end result can be a weak or nonexistent orgasm. Weak pelvic floor muscles both affect men and women in different ways.
If men have a shortened and tightened pelvic floor caused by their sitting posture, they may have less stamina and experience weak ejaculations. Women, on the other hand, may experience reduced sexual arousal and infrequent orgasms.
If you want to enjoy better orgasms, take the time to sit properly.
Dr. Kevin Carneiro is an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Physical Medicine Rehabilitation, and Medical Director of UNC Hospitals Spine Center. He states "patients with poor posture in the lumbopelvic area can also have with difficulties with urinary retention, pain during intercourse, or constipation."
He goes on to say that "frequent stretching during the day is a simple way to improve your posture in the long run."
#14 - It Can Affect Your Spinal Curve
An upright spine isn't actually straight. The spine has three important curves — one in your neck, one in your upper-to-mid back, and your lower back.
Poor posture will distort these curves.
For example, when your head starts to jut forward, it straightens out the curve in your neck. This change to your spine's natural curve affects the entire body, causing a chain reaction of problems.
#15 - It Can Cause Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
A forward head posture and slouched shoulders can restrict the blood vessels in your lower neck and upper chest that supply your arms.
Symptoms like mild tingling and/or numbness may occur. The great news is improving your posture is how to improve it.
Thoracic outlet syndrome can cause pain and bad circulation. Lastly, if it goes untreated, it can cause more serious problems like swelling and blood clots.
Improve Your Posture Today
Introducing healthier habits into your life can be hard — you have to unlearn many years of bad habits. Improving your posture is a lifelong development, so it's hard to completely eradicate deficits.
Hard work and consistency is what will improve your posture.
Take a deep breath in and roll your shoulders up and back. Every time you walk through a doorway, take a mental check of your posture and stand tall.
It's easy to fall into a habit, especially when it comes to our posture. Set an alert on your phone for a quick check every 20 minutes.
Every time you "check" on your self, this is what you should look for:
- Head down
- Chin tucked and back
- Shoulder blades down and back
- Abs drawn in
- Pelvis tilted to a neutral position
- Hips and knees at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor.
Don't be afraid to stretch and move around throughout the day.
Try Seated Pelvic Tilts
Scoot to the edge of your seat and put your hands on your thighs and your feet flat on the floor.
As you inhale, rock your pelvis and ribs forward as you expand your chest and look up. As you exhale, rock your pelvis and spine back and forth, looking at the floor.
Chin tucks are great for those who work on a phone or computer all day. These can help with headaches, jaw pain, and upper back pain.
Basically, give yourself a double chin and drive your cervical region toward your back. Hold this position for 20 to 25 seconds and perform them three to five times.
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