Your posture plays an integral part in your overall health— more than you may even know. In fact, poor posture can cause as much damage to your body and wellbeing as much more severe injuries. But despite the significant part that your posture plays in your health, the conversation surrounding the topic rarely goes beyond "watch your posture" or "that's bad for your posture". Until now. This month's blog post is dedicated to continuing the conversation on posture to help you improve yours and improve your wellbeing. Below, we'll discuss what proper posture is as well as the damage improper posture can cause, and the benefits proper posture can provide.
What is Proper Posture?
Depending on whether you’re sitting, standing, walking or doing something else, proper posture will look slightly different. But with that being said, there are common goals of proper posture that will be present no matter what you’re doing. They are:
- Keeps your bones and joints in proper alignment and allows your muscles to be used appropriately.
- Eliminates some of the stress placed on the ligaments holding your spine together.
- Reduces the chance of your spine resting in an unnatural position
- Uses muscles more efficiently— reducing fatigue
- Improves your overall appearance
- Prevents back and other muscle pain
When looking at your posture, it's essential to keep in mind that some people may not be able to achieve good posture no matter how hard they try. This is because posture isn't something we have full control over. It requires good muscle flexibility, normal joint movement, balanced muscles surrounding your spine as well as strong postural muscles, and for some people they may not have all of these things.
Proper Sitting Posture
Sitting is one of the most common areas of concern for people when it comes to posture. Whether you drive all day, sit at a desk for 8 hours or simply spend a lot of time on the couch, your posture is extremely important. Follow the tips below to help you achieve proper posture whenever you’re sitting.
- Your feet should sit flat on the floor. And if they don’t reach, use a footrest to help achieve this.
- Your knees should be at the same level or slightly below your hips, and your legs should be straight out in front of you with your ankles in line with your legs.
- Moving up, you’ll also want to relax your shoulders while keeping your forearms parallel to the floor.
- You should also sit with your back against the backrest of your chair. And you’ll want to adjust the backrest so that it is supporting your lower and mid-back.
Those four tips should help you get your workspace optimized for proper posture. In some cases, you may need to look into additional backrests or footrests depending on your occupation, but it is well worth the investment. And although those four tips are essential when it comes to proper posture, the most important sitting-related advice we can offer is to avoid sitting in the same position for long periods. We recommend scheduling a 5-minute break every couple of hours to allow yourself time to stand up, stretch and possibly walk around a bit.
Proper Standing Posture
Almost as equally as common of a concern as sitting, is standing. Standing may seem rather straightforward, but believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to stand when it comes to posture. And just like sitting, standing improperly for too long can lead to more severe pain, discomfort or damage. Use the tips below to improve your standing posture and your overall wellbeing.
- You want to start by pulling your shoulders back so that you’re standing up straight and tall and so that your stomach is tucked in.
- Your hands should hang naturally at your side.
- Moving down to your legs and feet, your feet should be shoulder-width apart while your knees should have a slight bend in them. You’ll also want to make sure that the majority of your weight is on the balls of your feet.
Those three tips are most valuable when it comes to proper standing posture. And if you find yourself standing for an extended period, you can also shift your weight from your toes to your heels or from one foot to another periodically.
The Damage Improper Posture Can Cause
As we mentioned above, bad posture can have negative effects on our bodies. Some of these effects are obvious while others may come as a surprise. All, however, should be taken seriously as they can have a lasting impact on our quality of life.
1) Pain and Discomfort
This is one of the most obvious effects of bad posture, and quite possibly the most common. Bad posture forces our muscles to work in unnatural ways, especially when looking at our spine, hips and knees, and can cause soreness in these muscles. It may also lead to the breaking down of tissue. But that’s not all. In some cases, pain and discomfort can also cause severe headaches or breathing difficulties.
2) Bad Circulation
When looking at improper sitting posture, crossed lines are one of the most common mistakes. And while this may seem harmless, it can lead to poor circulation. This can sometimes lead to back pain, but can also cause spider veins as well as increased pressure on the fluids and gases flowing throughout our bodies.
3) Stress and Negativity
Bad posture doesn’t stop at body pain and discomfort. It can also have negative effects on your mood and stress levels. This is because bad posture places more stress on your muscles— making your body work harder and making you feel worse. Just think about someone you know who practices Yoga. More than likely, they're typically quite positive and in a good mood. This is because Yoga encourages proper posture which promotes positivity and relaxation.
4) Poor Digestion
Your body is jam-packed with organs that need a certain amount of space to perform properly. And believe it or not, bad posture can limit the area these organs have to function. Specifically speaking, when you slouch your digestive organs are deprived of the space they need, and the passageways needed to move food through your body also become obstructed. This causes bad digestion and can also lead to constipation in some cases.
5) Negative Body Image
A negative body image is another one of the most common effects of poor posture that people are aware of. In most cases, people compare poor posture to a caveman. And to be honest, they're not wrong. But on top of this, poor posture can affect how approachable and confident you look. It may also present the illusion that you're in a bad mood.
6) Increased Fatigue
As we mentioned above, bad posture forces your muscles to work harder than usual. And while we mentioned this can lead to pain and discomfort, it can also increase your fatigue level— making you feel more tired much quicker.
We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about posture and its effect on our bodies. In many cases, the effects of perfecting your posture can be felt rather quickly, but there are some cases where proper posture isn’t enough to rid you of the pain and discomfort you might be feeling. If you’ve done everything you can to improve your posture, but still suffer from pain or discomfort, we recommend you visit your physiotherapist immediately. With years of training, your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose your condition better and help you get on the road to recovery. And as always, if you have any questions regarding your posture, physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, specific pain you may be experiencing or anything else rehabilitation related, we encourage you to reach out to us by phone, email or on social media. Our team would be more than happy to help.