Take a look around you next time you’re in a public place. What do you see?
People looking down at their phones, their necks strained downward, and they look like they have a hunch back. That’s exactly what you look like when you do it.
Bad posture, especially as it relates to work and technology has become a big problem across the world. And if you let poor posture go on long enough, you can permanently alter your movement patterns, potentially requiring surgery.
Let’s take a look at bad posture, the side effects of bad posture, and how to fix your posture starting today.
What is Bad Posture?
Also referred to as “postural dysfunction,” bad posture is when you place an unnatural strain on connective and muscular tissue through improper movements or sitting postures.
In other words, once your spine starts to move in unnatural ways, you’re practicing bad posture.
Bad posture is a vicious cycle of improper functional movement patterns that fuel more improper and dangerous movement patterns.
Causes of Bad Posture
The tricky thing about bad posture is that if you’ve been practicing it for years, you might not even realize you have bad posture. Sure, there might be mornings when you wake up sore as hell, but you chalk it up to sleeping the wrong way.
But if you stop to pay attention to how you’re moving, you’ll quickly realize that there are things you’re doing every day to promote postural dysfunction. Here are a few of the most common causes of bad posture.
Postural Kyphosis (Slouching / Rounded Back)
Postural kyphosis is when someone is slouching or allowing the back to become rounded for extended periods of time. The result is that this posture stretches the connective tissue and muscular tissue holding the spinal column in place, pulling the vertebrae out of place, and causing a rounded back.
This one has become popular in the news with reporters referring to it as “text neck.” We’re all guilty of it. You get a text and look down at your phone. You want to check directions, e-mail, weather, etc., and you look down. If you’re on your phone for hours each day – and most of us are doing just that – you’re forcing your neck down and forward.
This is another common postural dysfunction for office workers and anyone working from home. Next time you’re typing at your computer, take a second to notice what your shoulders are doing. Are your shoulders pulled back with your chest out in front of you? Or are your arms favoring forward like a zombie from the Walking Dead?
Rounded shoulders happen when you allow your shoulders and arms to move too far forward for an extended period of time. It also doesn’t help if you only like to work out your chest, neglecting your rear deltoids and back muscles.
Put together, these three postural distortions can promote painful movement patterns. The longer you keep them up, the worse they will get, potentially requiring drastic actions in the future.
Bad Posture Effects
So, what’s the big deal? Does it really matter if you’re looking down all day or rounding your shoulders? Are there any negative effects of bad posture?
Bad posture can promote the following symptoms from least to most severe:
- Muscular strain
- Burning or aching sensation
- Changes in movement patterns
- Need for corrective surgery
How to Improve Posture
Okay, you get the point: You need to practice good posture. What exactly is good posture and how can you improve your posture now?
First, do not slouch in your chair. Try to find a position that allows you to favor the edge of your seat because this will make it easier to pull your shoulders back.
As much as you can, try to maintain a posture where you can put your chest up and pull your shoulders back.
Take a look at the level of your seat. If you’re in an adjustable chair, try to move your seat so that your legs are as close to parallel with the ground as possible. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
Standing / Walking
There’s a lot of overlap with standing and sitting posture. You want to practice what a lot of people call the Superman pose: chest up, shoulders back, gaze straight ahead.
What’s more, check in with yourself in regard to your abdominals and glutes. Tighten your abs and glutes from time to time and you’ll notice that some postural distortions are instantly fixed.
The posture you have at work is going to be the same as your sitting posture above, but there are a few more things I want to mention to ensure you avoid the rounded shoulders from using a keyboard.
If you can, invest in an ergonomic desk chair. This will help you maintain proper posture without tempting you to slouch.
Another thing I’d recommend investing in is a standing desk. This will help to break up the sedentary behavior of sitting throughout the day and it’s been shown to decrease your risk of postural distortion patterns and symptoms associated with them.
Next, while you’re at your computer, be sure to keep the screen at eye level. That way, you’re not looking down for hours at a time.
Place your keyboard and mouse on the desk so that you maintain a straight wrist throughout the workday.
If being on the phone is a big part of your job, get a headset. That way you don’t have to worry about issues related to cradling the phone between your shoulder and neck for hours.
Stretches to Help Posture
Here are some stretches I’d recommend doing throughout the day, especially if you’re sitting down at work for hours at a time.
Forward Fold: This is a common yoga stretch that targets the hamstrings, a chronically tight muscle that contributes to lower back pain. Stand with your feet together and bend at the hips. Allow yourself to hang in a natural position – don’t force it. Hold this for up to 60 seconds.
Chest / Shoulder Stretch on the Wall: This one will help to loosen up those tight muscles that you overuse when you’re on the computer. Place your hand against the wall and turn away from it, feeling the chest and front shoulder open up. Hold this for up to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Neck Stretch: This stretch can help to alleviate the symptoms of text neck. Place your left arm behind your back, grabbing it with the right arm and pulling to the side. Gently move your neck to the side and hold for 20 seconds. Look slightly up and hold for another 20 second. Finally, look slightly down and hold for 20 second. Repeat on the other side.