What is posture?

Posture refers to how your spine curves and how your muscles engage when you are sitting or standing. It involves your spine and muscles working together so you are correctly aligned.

Modern day posture, or lack thereof, is a major contributing factor to the back and neck pain millions of Americans experience on a daily basis. Sitting at a computer for hours on end with a tilted pelvis, slumped shoulders, and a forward head carriage is a reality for so many of us.

But why pain? “I haven’t done anything!” you might be saying to yourself. Poor posture causes imbalances in the body, which we then fight. Some muscles are getting stretched and weakened while others are becoming shortened and tight. 

Over time our bodies fatigue and wear down, causing pain. This means that your muscles and tendons are not working at efficient levels. In this weakened position your body is using increased energy just to stay upright.

The fact is that posture – good or bad – can have a direct impact on your overall health. Let’s explore the causes of bad posture, the benefits of good posture and the negative effects poor posture can have on your health.

What causes bad posture?

There are several reasons someone may have poor posture, including:

  • repetitive motions/poor biomechanics
  • weak muscles
  • genetic conditions
  • injuries
  • workstations that are not set up correctly/poor ergonomics 
  • looking down at your phone or tablet for long periods of time 
  • fatigue
  • carrying heavy bags/purses (especially over one shoulder) 
  • carrying extra body weight

The benefits of good posture

It may seem unlikely, but how you sit and stand can have a direct link to your health in a variety of ways:

  • Mood. Standing straight and tall can give you more self-confidence and will help you feel better mentally.
  • Bone, joint, and muscle health. Good posture means less stress on your body because your bones and muscles are in alignment and working together.
  • Better breathing. When you sit or stand correctly, there is less pressure on the organ known as the diaphragm, which makes it easier to take deep breaths.
  • Fewer headaches. Bad posture can increase shoulder tension, which can lead to headaches, but adjusting your posture can reduce them.
  • Stronger back and core muscles. Good posture is a workout, engaging muscles of the core, back, and chest. Strength in these muscles can increase your stability and balance as well.
  • Improved range of motion. Proper posture will result in more balanced musculature, allowing for a fuller range of motion.
  • Injury prevention. Improved strength and flexibility allow for proper lifting techniques to be easily applied, decreasing your chances of injury.
  • Less fatigue. Proper posture reduces muscular imbalances in the body, allowing the body to move more efficiently.

The negative health effects of poor posture

We’re all guilty of poor posture sometimes – fatigued at the end of a long day, a tough workout at the gym, poorly designed workspaces, or just a bad night of sleep. When we are not standing or sitting straight and engaging our muscles, when our shoulders are rounded, or our neck is not held high, we are showing signs of bad posture.

Bad posture can cause any of the following:

  • neck, back and shoulder pain, with increased risk of injury
  • stiffness
  • stress incontinence due to increased pressure on the abdomen and bladder
  • heartburn/slowed digestion due to increased pressure on the abdomen, which can in turn force stomach acid in wrong direction

Ways to improve posture

The longer we have poor posture, the harder it is to correct. But there are ways you can adjust how you sit and stand to achieve all the health benefits of good posture.

Some simple tips to begin reducing your pain and changing your posture include:

  • taking breaks to move around and switch between sitting and standing if possible
  • raising the height of your monitor so you aren’t looking down
  • placing the keyboard where your shoulders and arms can be relaxed while keeping your wrists straight
  • sitting further back on your chair

If you are experiencing pain from bad posture or other reasons, a visit to a chiropractor can help. Learn more about our practice here.

Benjamin Robinson, DC

Benjamin Robinson, DC, ART

Benjamin Robinson, DC, ART, is a chiropractor with the Lifespan Physician Group at the Lifespan Lifestyle Medicine Center. He is certified in Applied Kinesiology, Graston Technique, Kinesio Tape, Functional and Kinetic Treatment with Rehabilitation (FAKTR), and Active Release Technique, all of which help to provide a comprehensive approach to musculoskeletal conditions.