How posture affects your health
By: Rebecca Norris
Poor alignment can cause more than a hunched back and slumped shoulders. Whether you are spending too much time lounging on the couch, hunched over while gardening for several hours, or working for extended periods of time without an ergonically optimal workstation, chances are your posture is on the decline.
Poor posture goes beyond not looking confident and refreshed. Increased muscle tension can, in time, lead to injury and even joint tension. In the long run, some of the effects can even lead to poor circulation and even incontinence due to increased pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor. Jaclyn Fulop, board licensed physical therapist and owner of Exchange Physical Therapy Group, always tells her patients to adjust their posture every 20 minutes. She specifies 20 minutes for shifting positions since trigger points (knots) can form when the body remains static for 20 minutes. She recommends getting up and taking a walk.
Painful consequences of poor posture
Fulop also states that continuously sitting or standing with bad posture, especially with forward head positioning (also known as "tech neck") can lead to muscle imbalances and pain as the body makes an effort to keep the head steady and upright. Certain muscles will be elongated and weakened while other muscles will become shorter and tightened under stress. In time, this results in diminishing the curvature at the cervical spine which leads to neck pain and even pinched nerves, degeneration, and herniation discs, as well as ongoing poor spinal alignment. Sitting for extended periods of time can shorten hip flexors, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. These shortened muscles coupled with a more flattened curvature of the lumbar spine can result in persistent back pain. Thankfully there are methods of stretching and posture supports that can improve postural alignment and aid in restoring spinal curvature all while preventing muscular imbalances.
Combating poor posture and misalignment and all of the associated health implications comes down to postural awareness and understanding what stands between you and good posture. It's no surprise that our mobile devices are the culprits since they essentially force us into a tech neck position. From the head and the neck, poor alignment has a domino effect which leads to misalignment in the rest of the body. Fulop believes that increasing awareness around your body positioning and your posture is the first step toward a solution to fix poor posture.
Setting up your workstation for postural success is key. Keep your computer screen at arm's length and position the top of your screen at eye level. Aim to maintain your elbows at a 90-degree angle and keep your wrists relaxed and straight to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Don't underestimate these nuances since it's the small repetitive motions of typing and clicking that become problematic and lead to bigger problems. The hips and knees should also be positioned at 90-degree angles keeping thighs parallel to the floor. Feet should also be flat on the floor. It may sound like tedious, but it's what it takes to prevent poor posture and the ailments that come with it.
The power of a posture corrector
It's not always easy to follow the suggested ergonomic setup mentioned above and even being properly positioned does not mean you won't benefit from additional support. Licensed chiropractor Dr. Dani Olson recommends BackEmbrace to her patients and swears by the benefits she's experienced herself. BackEmbrace not only helped Dr. Olson maintain proper posture as she leaned patients, but she also experienced a state of calm accompanied by lowered blood pressure and pulse rate. By gently lifting the pressure off of her internal organs, Dr. Olson found that wearing BackEmbrace also improved her digestion and circulation.