How Bad Posture Can Harm Your Health

How Bad Posture Can Harm Your Health

Stand up straight. Don't slouch. These are the words almost every mother has said at least once to her children. This sage advice may have once been simply considered to be a mother's intuition, but modern science vindicates today's moms and those throughout history. Turns out bad posture can be detrimental to your health. Read on to learn how to fix bad posture.

The Science Behind Posture

It's worth it to heed your mother's words. Posture plays a significant role in maintaining our health and balance. Standing up straight centers your weight in relation to your feet. When you maintain your posture, you can sustain your correct alignment when exercising. This results in more significant gains and decreases the rate of injuries. Let's look at posture and separate the good from the bad.

What Is Good Posture?

Practicing good posture gives you a solid foundation for good health. We're not talking about the military-style stance with the chest out and shoulders back. Good posture means maintaining balance and the alignment of your muscles and skeleton. It requires a conscious awareness of your body.

The way you hold your body is your posture. There are two types of posture:

  • Static posture. This refers to how you hold yourself when you're standing still, sitting, or sleeping. Static posture is how you hold your body when you're not moving.
  • Dynamic posture. This refers to how you hold your body when you're moving, such as walking, running, doing yoga, or simply bending over to pick something off the floor. 

For both static and dynamic posture, the key is the position of your spine. A correct posture will maintain the natural curves of your spine — your neck, your mid-back, and your low back

Why Is Bad Posture So Bad?

Slumping over your keyboard for hours on end may leave you with aches and pains in your shoulders and neck when you lie down at night. If you're hunching over your keyboard year after year, you're primed for some real damage

Proper posture aids in the prevention of shoulder, neck, and back pain. It aids digestion, makes breathing easier, and helps maintain balance and flexibility. Bad posture can have detrimental effects, such as restricting free movement, which eventually makes exercise and daily activities difficult. 

Negative Health Consequences of Bad Posture

The price tag for bad posture habits can be significant, eventually interfering with simple tasks such as driving or carrying grocery bags. Muscles become less flexible when you practice bad posture habitually. This makes it hard or even painful to exercise or perform simple activities. Bad posture can lead to conditions such as:

  • Breathing Issues. Your diaphragm needs enough space in your thoracic cavity to function properly so you can breathe effectively. Your diaphragm must be able to contract with each breath and release properly. To breathe effectively, you need your spine to be correctly aligned and your body positioned to its full length. A misaligned spine and poor posture may compromise your ability to breathe well. 
  • Neck and Back Pain. Your muscle strength impacts your balance in several ways. The main muscles of the back, pelvis, sides, and buttocks make up a sturdy core of muscles that serve as a central link between your upper and lower body. If your core muscles are weak, you'll be prone to slump, which tips your body forward and keeps it off-balance. 
  • Headaches. Bad posture can cause tightness in your neck muscles or aggravate any existing stiffness in your neck. This can compromise the natural curvature of your spine. Tight neck muscles are a frequent cause of headaches. 
  • More Prone to Injury. The chronic practice of bad posture makes you more susceptible to injury, especially to your back, shoulders, arms, and wrists. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons people miss work or see a doctor. Bad posture is especially hazardous to those who stand for prolonged periods of time, often resulting in back pain, fatigue, and leg cramps. 

Bad posture is easy to combat, however.

How To Fix Bad Posture and Its Consequences

Improving your posture can positively affect your physical and mental health. Here are several ways to combat bad posture habits and the trouble they cause.

  • Exercise. Staying active, especially adding strengthening exercises to your regular workout routine, can improve your posture. It's also helpful to maintain a healthy weight and remain mindful of your body positioning. 
  • Make Adequate Nutrition a Priority. If you're carrying extra weight, it can contribute to your bad posture. Excessive weight weakens the abdominal muscles, which causes problems that may prevent proper alignment of your spine and pelvis and contribute to lower back pain. 
  • Set Reminders to Check Your Body Posture Mentally. Put your smartphone to good use by setting a reminder for a quick posture check every twenty minutes. When you do a check, look for these specific points:
    1. Is your chin parallel to the floor?
    2. Are your shoulders even? (Achieve this by rolling your shoulders up, back, and down.)
    3. Is your spine in a neutral position? (This means there's no flexing or arching to exaggerate the curve in your lower back.)
    4. Are your arms at your sides with elbows even and straight most of the time?
    5. Are you holding your abdominal muscles braced?
    6. Are your hips even?
    7. Are your knees held even and pointing straight ahead? (Don't cross your legs.)
    8. Is your body weight distributed evenly on both feet when standing?

Know Your Posture

If you slouch, you're probably aware of it. (If you're uncertain, ask your mother. She'll know.) If you want a quick way to check yourself for slouching, try this: Stand with the back of your head against a wall. Place your feet six inches outward from the baseboard. Your rear end should touch the wall. Your neck and lower back should be about two inches away from the wall. 

If not, call to set up an appointment to talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about improving your posture.

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