Growing up, we have all heard the saying “stand up straight.” As we get older, we tend to get lazy and develop bad habits like slouching and looking down at our cell phones. Over time, these bad habits can take a toll on our body’s primary stabilizer – the spine.
The spine is one long unit consisting of multiple vertebrae, known as the spinal column. These vertebrae comprise three natural curvatures located in the neck, upper back, and lower back area. Maintaining these curvatures is essential to the body’s overall health because the nerves that supply our brain and internal organs run through the sides of the spinal column.
Having bad posture can create stress along the entire spine, causing pain and discomfort in many areas, not only the back.
1. Headaches and Neck Pain
Having bad posture while looking at a computer screen all day can lead to severe neck pain radiating into the head, causing headaches and neck stiffness. The forward-leaning of the head over a prolonged period can create what is known as tech neck pain.
2. Low Back and Hip Pain
Many people suffer from chronic low back pain due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor posture. All the pressure is placed on the low back and hip area when we sit, so it is vital to maintain good posture with proper support.
Unsupported sitting posture can create a forward bend which causes extreme pressure to build upon the lower spinal discs leading to disc herniation.
Using incorrect posture can slowly weaken the back and hip area, especially when utilizing the wrong lifting techniques. When the back is used instead of the leg muscles when lifting, the result can be disc herniation or, worse, a disc rupture.
When we engage in inadequate posture practices, it can affect our sleep. Insomnia and bad posture are double-edged swords creating a vicious cycle.
Putting excess strain on our neck muscles causes tiny tears to occur, and without having enough time to repair them during the day, they become aggravated at night, causing insomnia. On the other hand, being sleep deprived at night can contribute to slouching and bad posture during the day.
4. Digestion and Urinary Problems
After a meal, it is critical to engage in proper posture techniques. Otherwise, when we slouch, it can lead to a decrease in the digestion process and heartburn.
When a person slouches, it puts excess stress on the abdomen, forcing the stomach acid back up into the esophagus, causing acid reflux to occur.
Slouching also puts pressure on the bladder, and the pelvic floor muscles lose their ability to hold against the tension driving stress incontinence.
5. Spinal Curvature Issues
Poor posture stretches the ligaments and muscles along the side of the spine. These ligaments and muscles hold the vertebrae in place. Bad posture can, over time, cause the natural curves of the spine to change shape, which puts an extensive amount of pressure in the wrong position.
When the spine is aligned correctly, the discs between each vertebra are designed to absorb shock. Bad posture reverses this action leaving our vertebra vulnerable to injury. Poor posture can also lead to pain and disease at the cervicothoracic and lumbosacral joints. The pain is due to inflammation, and diseases, such as arthritis, can also occur due to stiff joints, all caused by poor posture.
The long-lasting effects of bad posture can create muscle imbalances that leaves people prone to injuries. Making minor changes in how we do things can help improve our posture. The following are just a few easy ways to straighten up.
- Make sure your workstation is ergonomically correct. Have your computer at the right eye level and a chair with proper back support.
- When carrying bags or groceries, make sure to balance evenly between what you are holding on the right and left sides. For example, do not carry five grocery bags on the left side and nothing on the right.
- Hold your cell phone at eye level instead of in your lap. This action will prevent forward neck strain while maintaining the standard cervical curve in the spine.
- Take daily breaks and stretch. This action helps promote circulation and prevents being in a seated position for too long.
- Utilize a lumbar pillow or lumbar support while driving or sitting for too long. You can also roll up a beach towel and fold it over to form the same shape and use that instead to save money.
- Spend time strengthening your core muscles. Having strong abdominal muscles work to help prevent your back from compensating.
- If you find yourself leaning forward at your desk, take a few minutes to stretch the back in the opposite direction. This process will help reverse the curve in the proper position.
- Take advantage of the free apps that have alerts so you can set up reminders to sit up, stand straight and move more!
Start being mindful of your posture today. Don’t wait for your body to tell you there is a problem. Just remember, bad habits are created by repetition and can easily be changed with repetition.