We all know that we should ideally maintain a good posture when we sit, stand, and walk. Many people believe that the single reason for this is that good posture can prevent back pain. While this is certainly true, there is a lot more to posture than just avoiding troublesome back issues. Here’s what you need to know about posture and how keeping your spine in alignment can benefit your health.
Posture is the term given to the way in which we hold our bodies while we are standing, sitting, and even lying down. Yes, that’s right. It’s equally as important to maintain good posture when sleeping as it is when upright or moving around. Good posture is a result of the correct alignment of the spine, where our body parts are supported by just the right amount of muscle tension against gravity.
Unless we specifically think about our posture, many of us don’t pay much attention to it. We automatically rely on our muscles to keep our spine in alignment, our body rigid, and maintain our balance. Unfortunately, our lack of conscious thought about our posture often means that bad habits creep in, and instead of keeping our spine straight, we start to hunch, emphasizing the natural curves of the spine and placing unnatural stress onto the joints, muscles, and vertebrae. Prolonged poor posture results in an accumulation of pressure on these tissues increasing the risk of pain and injury.
Some of the signs of poor posture include the following:
Bent knees when standing/walking
Head leaning too far forwards or backward
Back pain and body aches
Not only can we forget to pay attention to our posture, but these symptoms can also occur because you have experienced a past injury and are holding your body differently to overcome pain and mobility issues.
As we know, many people think that the biggest effect of poor posture is on the back, and prolonged poor posture can result in chronic back pain and mobility problems. however, posture has a much wider impact. This is largely because the spine houses the spinal cord – one of the key parts of your central nervous system and which is responsible for all other body functions and systems. When the spine becomes compromised in any way, it can place pressure onto the nervous system, and it is this that can trigger a whole range of issues, including:
Headaches. These are principally caused by excess strain on the shoulders, neck, and back of the head. Headaches can be very debilitating, and many people are keen to avoid the need for pain medications. Better posture can ease and even eliminate headaches without the need for drugs.
Back and neck pain. Poor posture is one of the biggest contributors to the development of pain experienced in the back and neck. This is because the muscles, tendons, and other connective tissues serving this area of the body are chronically extended beyond their usual capabilities.
Jaw pain. If you spend considerable time with your head slouched forwards, you may be straining the muscles under your chin and this could cause problems with your jaw, and more specifically, your temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Issues with other joints in the body. This includes the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, and elbows. This is because poor posture can lead to muscle weakness, tightness and stiffness, and lack of flexibility. Inflammation can also occur, and this can trigger the onset of pain and further mobility issues.
Fatigue. Did you know, studies have found that when you have an upright posture, you are naturally more alert and have a higher level of brain activity? Therefore, in having poor posture you may be more likely to experience fatigue, which will automatically affect your energy levels and could cause you to crave sugary foods and drinks, which of course are bad for your health.
Breathing problems. Poor posture has been shown to contribute to dysfunction in breathing patterns, and this can often be seen in people who spend long hours sitting each day. When you sit with rounded shoulders and your head forwards, the muscles around the chest tighten and this limits the ability of your rib cage to expand properly. As a result, you end up taking rapid, shallow breaths rather than larger, deeper ones. This may not sound like an issue, but research has found that it is far better for our health to take balanced, equal breaths than lots of little ones. There are lots of benefits associated with deep breathing too, including reduced stress and anxiety, greater oxygen flow into the body to reach the vital organs and you can even build your endurance for strenuous exercise.
If you would like more information about the importance of posture for good health, please speak to our experienced chiropractic team.