While it can be common for our posture to change as we age, in today’s world of technology, poor posture is becoming more and more common earlier in life—and its ramifications can, in some cases, be significant.
The lifetime prevalence of low-back pain among adults in industrialized countries is estimated to be 60 to 70%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The cause? Poor posture is one of the main contributing factors that cause neck and back pain, as well as being the first indicator of degenerative joint disease.
Poor posture can negatively affect the way someone moves. Similarly, faulty movement patterns and dysfunctional muscles can cause poor posture. This means that poor posture can be the result of or the cause of a client’s pain and dysfunction.
Poor posture can cause back and/or neck pain due to the stress put on joints and ligaments, because the surrounding musculature is not able to support the various functions of the back and neck. This can also lead to gastrointestinal (GI) struggles, because the slouching can lead to the compression of internal organs.
Many believe that posture is a direct indicator of an individual’s current and future state of health and function. Posture is actually a reflection of our muscle function, spinal structure and flexibility, which are all indicators of our state of health. When we are not aware of proper posture, poor posture may get the best of us. People who have a tendency to slouch or slump while standing, sitting, or even walking, also tend to experience varying health conditions, from headaches and muscle stiffness to more long-term ailments, like decreased respiratory function.
Among other things, poor posture can cause the following:
Arthritis, abnormal stress on joints and muscle imbalances, curtailed lung capacity (by as much as 30%) Continued poor posture can result in shallow breathing, causing shortness of breath and general fatigue, muscle tension and stress which can also restrict blood flow to the brain.
Have you heard of "text neck"? As helpful as technology can be, there are specific issues caused by its use. For example, “tech neck” (also referred to as “text neck”) is caused by the forward and downward movement of the neck from mobile phone use and improper placement of computers. Several studies show a correlation between mobile phone use and neck pain. I know this from personal experience and have had several trips to a chiropractor to help correct it and my own posture. With the majority of 2020 many people (that still had a job) were forced to work from home. This has created more posture issues for those that do not have proper workstation alignment/setups to maintain good posture while at their computer.
Posture is often born out of habit. The spine experiences several positions during the day, and it is easy to take ourselves away from balanced posture. Over time and with bad habit, poor posture can become the norm. The more time we spend with our spines in poor posture positions, the higher the likelihood it will permanently deform and degenerate.
Proper posture is unique to each individual. It represents the positioning of the body in relationship to gravity that creates the least stress and most support for the skeletal structure, while creating the ability to perform daily tasks or athletic activities with comfort and ease. Simply put, proper posture is the most efficient and effective way for that particular body to stand, sit, walk and move.
Keys to Improving Posture
So what can we do about it?
Changing your position every 20 to 30 minutes is a must. Set your alarm or engage your smartphone or watch to help remind you. If your job or lifestyle requires sitting for most of the day, make sure you have an ergonomic chair that balances your head and torso in a neutral position. If there is an option of a standing workstation, take advantage of it. Change your position from sitting to standing and recognize your posture.
Exercise helps tremendously. A balanced program of stretching and strengthening will, over time, help achieve balance in the muscle groups necessary to maintain and improve posture.
DON'T FORGET SLEEPING POSTURE
Since we spend, on average, about one-third of our lives sleeping, sleeping posture is as important as what posture we use while awake. “Try sleeping in a position that supports your natural spinal curves, such as on your side or back,” advises Blackburn. “And use pillows strategically to keep that spine neutral and aligned. For example, for side sleeping, choose a pillow with the same depth as your shoulder so your head is not elevated or depressed, putting undo strain on your neck.
Posture is vital not only to our health, but also overall function. Our quality of life is determined by how well we function in the environments we live. And good posture, like any exercise, must be made into a good habit to experience results.
Information gathered from ACE Fitness.