The Health Risks and Side Effects of Poor Posture
“Tech-neck,” also known as “text-neck,” is a physical condition that causes neck pain in individuals who repetitively strain the muscles and tissues in their neck, often by hunching over to look at their mobile devices. Tech-neck is just one of the many issues that are a result of bad posture and should be corrected right away. Fortunately, posture can easily be corrected. Throughout this article, you will understand the importance of good posture, along with its benefits and how to correct current bad posture habits.
What Is Good Posture?
Posture refers to how an individual holds/positions their body while standing, sitting, or lying down, specifically concerning the orientation of the spine. Good posture is the result when you can hold your body in a way that supports your joints and muscles. There are two types of posture, dynamic and static:
- Dynamic Posture: The state of your body’s posture while walking, running, or any other type of body movement.
- Static Posture: The state of your body’s posture when there is no movement i.e. sitting, standing, or sleeping.
How Does Posture Affect Your Health and Wellness?
What some may not know is just how much of your body posture affects. Listed below are the different areas of the body where posture plays a role.
The average human body is made up of between 250 and 350 different joints. Posture alone can positively and/or negatively affect the many joints in most of the body. For instance, according to the Mayo Clinic, “proper body alignment can help prevent excess strain on your joints…” Over-strained joints could be subject to further ailments like poor joint alignment, compressed discs/joints, less space for nerves to live, and shoulder impingement.
Circulation and Digestion
Circulation is “the movement of blood through the vessels of the body that is induced by the pumping action of the heart and serves to distribute nutrients and oxygen to and remove waste products from all parts of the body.” Bad posture can decrease the blood flow to and from the heart, possibly increasing the odds of high blood pressure.
Poor circulation caused by poor posture, such as sitting for prolonged periods, can also cause your blood to stagnate in your lower extremities (i.e. feet and legs) — ultimately reducing the blood flow to the rest of your body and potentially causing nerve pain.
Poor posture affects more than just nerves and joints. In fact, according to orthopedic surgeon and spine expert with the University of Miami Health System, Dr. Joseph Gjolaj, “the more hunched forward you are, the more compressed your internal organs, including the GI tract are. This constriction of the abdomen can lead to symptoms of GI upset and even acid reflux.” Simply sitting/standing up straight can help to reduce any feelings of indigestion, heartburn, and any other abdominal discomfort you may feel when slouching.
Hunching over, rolling your shoulders forward, and hanging your head down low are typical signs shown in individuals who feel sad, unconfident, and/or down. Posture may not be the first thing associated with ways to increase your mood, but improving the way you sit and stand can help to decrease any down feelings while also increasing your mood and confidence.
Back and Neck Pain
It’s no secret that poor posture can cause back and neck pain. When you are continuously looking down and/or slouching over, it may cause your spine to deteriorate — preventing healthy blood flow, increasing the odds of pinched nerves, or even straining back and neck muscles.
Discussing these spinal issues associated with improper posture is often when the term “tech-neck” is used. Improving your posture will help to provide your back and neck with the support they need while sitting or standing throughout the day.
Confidence and Self-Esteem
As mentioned above, often when experiencing feelings of sadness, people tend to hunch over/slouch more than usual. Improving your posture can help to not only make you feel better but can also improve your overall confidence and self-esteem.
One of the positive effects of good posture is looking more confident and poised due to a taller appearance. Rebecca Gorrell, a movement therapist, states that good posture can improve your confidence by making you “look younger, thinner, and taller.”
Appearance and Perception
How you hold yourself can influence how others perceive you. When you stand tall and hold your head high, it can show those around you (i.e. coworkers, friends, family members) that you appear to be more confident in yourself. The popular saying “look good, feel good” is no stranger to the working world. When you look the part, it can help you succeed in your career and show those around you (i.e. coworkers, clients, and customers) that you are confident in yourself to perform your work task to the best of your ability.
Ways to Maintain Good Posture
Even though there are many health risks associated with bad posture, there are just as many ways to prevent them. Listed below are different ways to maintain good posture:
- Exercise and stretch regularly;
- Extend your head upward;
- Hold your mobile device at eye-level, rather than looking down;
- Invest in a mattress that is made for the natural curvature of your spine;
- Move your car seat close to the steering wheel and refrain from reclining;
- Pull your shoulders back;
- Stand tall when walking;
- Stop slouching whenever you are sitting down;
- Wear comfortable shoes that promote better posture.
Severe posture abnormalities may require you to seek treatment beyond the tips mentioned above. If this is the case, you may need to contact your local spine specialist. There, they will be able to tell you the type of treatment you may need, like a chiropractor, physical therapy, and/or an orthopedic spine surgeon.
Things That Can Contribute to Poor Posture
Bad habits and risk factors to be mindful of when trying to prevent poor posture are as follows:
- Age and weight;
- Daily lifestyle habits. For example, sitting at a computer all day or being on your mobile device for extended periods, sitting on your wallet, and poor nutrition;
- Having a desk job that doesn’t supply you with the chairs that promote good posture;
- Heredity and genetics;
- Preexisting muscle tension/weakness;
- Previous injuries;
- Poor shoe choice (i.e. heels, stilettos, and other shoes that lack support);
- Stress and a bad mental attitude.
It’s easy to slip into habits that result in bad posture, but it is just as easy to practice healthy habits that are intended to promote and maintain good posture as well. Being aware of the above common causes of poor posture can help ensure that you treat your body and mind the way it deserves to be treated.