We all know that good posture is an important part of being healthy, but it's something you often put off until later, like so many other aspects of our own self-care. You may not realise however, all of the ways in which having better body alignment can impact your life. Here are just a few changes that you can expect when you do get around to working on your posture...
1. You feel more energetic:
"Standing with optimal posture allows your diaphragm to work more efficiently, which can make breathing easier and less labored," says Alynn Dukart, certified strength and conditioning specialist and wellness physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. A forward, rounded posture (say, from hunching over your laptop) restricts the expansion of your rib cage as you breathe, compresses your diaphragm, and can even decrease lung capacity, making breathing more difficult. Efficient breathing, on the other hand, regulates the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout your body and keeps you energised.
2. You're less likely to experience headaches:
If you do suffer with headaches, your posture could be to blame. Tension headaches are most often caused by a tight neck, upper back, and jaw muscles, all of which are made worse by forward head and rounded shoulders posture. Over time, if the muscle tightness persists, trigger points and stiff upper cervical (neck) jointss can develop, causing radiating pain into your head. Being more mindful of your body alignment, combined with a regular, simple routine of stretching and strengthening your muscle groups, can reverse all of these effects.
3. There is less strain on your joints:
Bad posture is bad news for your joints. Put simply, our bodies are deigned to be "stacked" or aligned in a certain way. When this isn't happening, our muscles and joints are subjected to stresses that they aren't designed for. "Tech neck", or forward head posture for example, places significant stress on your shoulder and neck joints and surrounding muscles, which can lead to pain and headaches. Research has repeatedly shown that for every inch of forward head posture, the weight of the head on the spine increses by 10 pounds. Another common thing we see is anterior pelvic tilt, which compresses your lumbar spine and can lead to back and hip pain.
4. You will feel less stressed:
Yes, really! A study from the University of Auckland found that sitting up straight can be used as a coping mechanism against stress. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups and asked to complete a stress-inducing task. The first group completed the task in an upright position, while the second group did so while being in a slouched posture. After the task was over, participants who used good posture reported feeling "more enthusiastic, excited, and strong." Meanwhile, slouched participants reported feeling more "fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish." Researchers suspect that sitting up straight can stimulate physiological arousal such as a increase in blood pressure, and trigger a coping response to stress. When your body isn't aligned properly, it appears to alter your hormones and nervous system function, which then alters your mood.
The correlation between posture and physical health is well known. However, posture also has a link with your mental health. Various research studies around the world have noted the importance of posture in affecting one’s relationship to people and the world. One study (Carney et al, 2010) has postulated that “power poses” lead to increased testosterone and decreased cortisol levels, which is then associated with social dominance and decreased threat perception.
Another study between Columbia and Harvard Universities argues that stress is increased by bad posture. The study showed that people who adopted powerful postures, open shoulders, and straight spines had a 20% increase in testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol levels, resulting in a lower feeling of stress. Those who slouched had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol, resulting in a higher feeling of stress.
As the brain-body connection rightly continues to permeate the wellness industry, more studies show the correlation between poor posture and a poor state of mind. So, if you spend increased periods of time sitting with your shoulders slouched (like looking at a computer) it's important to take note of the side effects of this as well as how to counteract them. Strong evidence points to poor posture as an exacerbating factor in various states of negative mood.
Indeed, we now know that a slumped or collapsed posture increases people's feelings of anxiety or depression, while a straightened spine helps them feel more alert. Furthermore, the shoulders back position lowers the levels of anxiety as well. This phenomenon is also responsible for an increase in energy. With less compression, your muscles are better able to perform vital functions without the extra work.
The science behind this connection may be surprising but sitting or standing in better alignment really can make a difference. If you’ve ever tried yoga, you may have heard of “power poses”, which are upright positions that help boost energy and confidence. If you haven’t done yoga, you’ve probably noticed how you feel more positive mentally when in a more upright posture.
Turning again to science, a San Francisco State University study examined how students recalled and thought about past experiences, both good and bad. The group was told to recall both negative and positive experiences twice – once while sitting up straight, the other while slouching over. The results showed that 86% of the students who were in a slumped position found it easier to recall negative emotions or experiences. On the contrary, 87% of the students found it much easier to recall positive experiences when sitting up straight.
These same principles can be applied to your everyday life. Remember, being slumped over can cause issues you may not be consciously aware of. Additionally, slouching is seen as a position of defeat. Sitting or standing up straighter can help positive feelings and memories emerge instead of more unmotivated/hopeless feelings.
Anxiety, depression, and stress can all become serious issues. Being more aware of your posture can help. Making small changes like consistently sitting taller with your back straight can make a difference. Consider how you may be sitting right now, is your back straight and your head upright? We often spend hours slouching without even realizing it. Changing this is a process that takes practice and discipline but in the end, it’s worth it.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Psychology Today…
“If you have depression that’s causing serious distress and interfering with your daily life, good posture is no substitute for professional treatment. But as an addition to treatment, reminding yourself to sit or stand up straight can help you feel more upbeat and energetic.”
Poor posture contributes to problems in breathing patterns. We see this issue frequently in people who spend a lot of time sitting each day. Maintaining a posture where your shoulders are rounded and your head is forward causes the muscles around your chest to tighten. These tight chest muscles can limit the ability of your rib cage to expand, and this can cause you to take rapid, shallow breaths.
More specifically, people with a more curved upper back (thoracic kyphosis) and internally rotated shoulders have limited movement of their thorax. When breathing in, the rib cage can’t fully expand and the lungs cannot fully inflate.
An increased arch in your lower back (lumbar lordosis), where the pelvis is tilted forward, decreases the range of motion of the lower lumbar spine and shortens the latissimus and lower back extensor muscles. This limits the range of motion of the diaphragm, again restricting the inflation of your lungs. The abdominal muscles are overstretched in this posture as well, limiting their function of helping to breath out.
Some people may also find difficulty breathing with an exaggerated curve in their neck (cervical lordosis) due to compression of their larynx.
Belly breathing pulls down on your diaphragm, which is a dome shaped muscle between your chest and your stomach, to suck air into your lungs. Belly breathing fully inflates your lungs so that you get as much air as possible, whereas chest breathing only partially inflates your lungs.
Stress-related illnesses, sleep problems, respiratory problems, immune system weakening, and high blood pressure are all symptoms of long term shallow breathing.
Try it for yourself
While sitting in a chair, let your shoulders slump and your head hang forwards. Now in this position try and take a deep breath.
How does it feel? Hard to do a belly breath right?
Poor alignment in that slumped position means your diaphragm can’t descend easily making it hard to activate the posterior half of your diaphragm that attaches to your lower ribs and spine. To get enough air in, your body has to recruit its “back up” breathing muscles around the neck and chest to help breathe in, expanding the rib cage to get air travelling down into the lungs.
These neck and chest muscles are not very efficient and are not designed to be used for the 17,000 breaths we take on average per day. They get tired, fatigued and tight, which can lead to headaches, neck and jaw pain.
Now try sitting tall, with your head up and shoulders back, then take a deep breath into your belly. It’s easier, right? The process of putting yourself in a more optimal position for your spine allows the correct respiratory muscles to activate, drawing air into the lower lobes of the lungs where the best bloody supply is.
*Clinical research findings*
Forward head posture causes expansion of the upper thorax and contraction of the lower thorax, and these morphological changes cause decreased respiratory function.
(JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL THERAPY SCIENCE 2019)
Results indicate that forward head posture could reduce vital capacity, possibly because of weakness or disharmony of the accessory respiratory muscles.
(JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL THERAPY SCIENCE 2016)
Alteration of head and neck positions can have an immediate negative impact on respiratory function. Clinicians should be prompted to assess respiratory function when assessing individuals with forward head posture and torticollis and reduce the tension on respiratory system to avoid negative consequences.
(BIOMED RESEARCH INTERNATIONAL 2018)
Did you know that there is a correlation between your posture and level of alertness and ability to concentrate? With better posture, not only do you look better and feel better, but you have the ability to sit upright and be more engaged in conversations and learning experiences. You are more alert and aware of your surroundings, and are in a posture or position to make quicker and more precise movements. Just think, when you look around a classroom full of students, you can easily spot the students who are paying attention and learning, compared to those who are disinterested just by observing their sitting posture.
What postural presentation do the students (or worker) who are falling asleep have? They are slumped forward on their desk in a flexion dominant posture, or they are slouched low in their chairs with anterior pelvic translation.
What postural presentation does an alert student (or worker) maintain? Alert students are sitting high in their chairs. They are seated upright and engaged. Their level of engagement is much higher than the students who are half asleep with slumped posture.
Because of the connection of posture and consciousness, research also demonstrates that with proper posture there is better cognitive performance (Muehlhan, 2014). Not only are students who have proper posture in class taking care of their spine, joints and muscles, they also have a higher level of engaged learning and cognitive performance.
The same is true for modern day office workers. While sitting at their desks performing work, by shifting their posture to be more upright, they will be that much more conscious of the work they are doing and engage at a higher level of productivity. Their concentration is improved, as is their lung capacity and circulation. It's a win-win.
Correct posture and alignment, especially while sitting for prolonged periods, is essential for office workers in order to prevent work related pain and injuries. Admittedly, most of us sit with poor posture at some point, but when a person has to adopt their sitting position for long periods of time, often day in and day out, poor health issues can result.
Some consequences of prolonged incorrect sitting posture…
- Neck pain and spasm
- Interscapular/thoracic pain and stiffness
- Lower back pain
- Muscular tension throughout the shoulder girdle
- Wrist, forearm or elbow pain
- Potential for lumbar disc irritation/bulging
What to do about it…
Many people admit they know they have poor posture, but don’t know what to do about it. This is where education becomes crucial. Correct workstation setup is very simple to teach and the most effective preventative tool we have in helping people avoid the above potentially disabling problems.
At Perth Posture Centre we are well trained and experienced in educating patients about workstation setup, postural corrective exercises and manual therapy that will alleviate any problems that may have arisen from poor office work habits. We use a combination of soft tissue massage, trigger point release, spinal mobilisation, dry needling (acupuncture) and exercises to stretch and strengthen anti-gravity muscles as well as improving alignment when we are faced with these workers. As usual, early detection and referral for treatment is the key.
Are you guilty of having poor posture while reading this blog post? If so, you may be suffering from a modern day health challenge called “tech neck.” Poor posture while utilising technology is a very common factor contributing to poor postural design.
Technology is recognized as one of the principle causes of the modern day posture epidemic. Poor posture due to looking down at a mobile phone is so common that a new diagnosis has been created to explain the phenomenon, and that is “tech neck.”
Do you suffer from headaches, neck pain, shoulder tightness or fatigue?
If you do, it could be due to your posture while using technology. Repetitive stresses from checking your mobile phone with improper posture or having slouched posture at work on your computer can have a tremendous impact on your posture and your health.
The impact of proper posture is far beyond the musculoskeletal system. Consider the following research studies showing that forward head posture has a negative impact on your health.
Did you know…?
Instead of looking down while sending a text message, checking your email or social media, raise your phone to eye level to avoid excessive strain to your neck and upper back. Also, be sure that when using a computer your screen is close enough where you can see it clearly without jutting your head forward, as well as having it at the correct height so you're not looking down to see the viewing area.
For proper posture while using technology, consider the following posture tips to re-train poor posture habits.
There is never a good substitute for movement, but keeping active can be challenging. For many people, going out for a run or taking time to perform a full workout can be daunting, especially if this is not a part of their usual routine. Here are some ideas to get you away from your desk, your couch, or anywhere that keeps you in a static posture for too long...
There are a few quick and easy ways to add some movement to your day, starting with something as simple as boiling the kettle or just getting a drink from the fridge or water cooler. It only takes 2-3 minutes, so challenge yourself to see if you can complete these three exercises before going back to sitting down. You can focus on one each day, or work through a different one each time.
1. Challenge your balance.
Standing on one leg is something many of us assume we can do, yet rarely take the time to check. This is an essential skill that can deteriorate without being noticed until everyday activities, such as getting dressed, are impacted. Being able to stand on one leg is important for putting on shoes, trousers and reduced balance can be a risk factor for falls.
Start by seeing if you can stand on one leg with your eyes open for the entire time a kettle is boiling, or time yourself with a stopwatch. Test both legs, making sure you are close to a bench that you can use to support yourself. To increase the difficulty, try balancing with your eyes closed, then progress to balancing on your tiptoes. If you can balance on your tiptoes, with your eyes closed, then you can ask your physio for more suggestions.
2. Heel Raises
Start by keeping your knees slightly bent and lift both heels off the ground at the same time. You can begin with repetitions of 5, have a quick rest then repeat. Challenge yourself to increase the speed of your heel raises and see how many you can fit into your 2 minute workout. As you bend your knees, aim to keep your knees over your second toe. If you feel this is a little too easy, you can progress to single-leg heel raises, which will also improve your balance!
You can start a daily competition with the people in your home or workplace to see who can complete the most repetitions in a set time period.
Squats are a great exercise to keep your large muscles working. You can start with 5 shallow squats, aiming to slowly increase your number and progressively squat to a lower position. As with heel raises, when you start to find squats to be less of a challenge, you can move to single-leg squats.
Don’t hesitate to ask your physio or posture specilaist for tips on how else you can stay active at home or in the workplace.
Many of us spend more time at our desks than any other place in our waking hours. While the risk of injury from sitting down can seem unlikely, spending hours in a poorly set up workspace can place a lot of pressure on your body and lead to overuse injuries or postural pain. Below are a few tips that can help you set up your workstation better.
The height of your chair is a good place to begin. Ideally, your feet should be flat on the floor, and if you can adjust the height of the chair, your thighs should be parallel to the floor. If your chair has armrests, they should be low enough to allow your elbows to sit comfortably between 90-110 degrees of bend and rest by the side of your body. A small cushion or rolled-up towel may be added to the back of the chair to add support to the lower back to help prevent slouching.
If you are unable to adjust your chair and it is too high, you can use a footrest to allow your feet to rest comfortably.
The height of your desk should be set so that your arms can rest comfortably at the keyboard and hands, wrists and forearms can sit in a neutral position, parallel to the floor. Where possible, put everything you need within easy reach and alternate days using your mouse and phone with different hands on different days (if you can do this with your non-dominant hand!).
The height of your computer should be raised so that the top of the screen is around eye level. Allowing your neck to rest in a neutral position can help to prevent neck pain and headaches. Ideally, if you can set the screen to be 20-40 inches away from your face, this will reduce strain on your eyes while reading.
Some other tips
Being comfortable is extremely important for productivity and focus. If you are struggling with pain, your work will often suffer. Even joint stiffness and muscle tightness can disrupt your workflow, so taking the time to adjust your workstation can save you countless hours in the long run and prevent painful overuse injuries.
Taking active breaks from sitting to move and stretch can help to maintain muscle and joint health, which can be compromised from being in the same posture too long. You can set a timer or make the effort to take phone calls and video meetings standing, rather than always sitting.
You can speak to your physiotherapist or posture specilaist for more personalised advice on your workplace setup.
Over 80 percent of Australians will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Often, this pain is because of fatigued and overworked back muscles. Why do these muscles in our back get so tired and sore?
We have forgotten the proper ways to sit, stand, move, bend, drive, cook, and brush our teeth. Instead of using our legs and spine properly, our sitting lifestyle has brought us to new levels of bending, slouching, and living in chronic hip flexion.
This new lifestyle leads to the incorrect use of many muscles, one of the most important being the gluteal muscles, or “glutes”. The combination of these 3 large muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) is extremely powerful. These muscles are integral to actions such as climbing stairs, getting out of a car, and standing us upright after bending over. Without the correct use of these muscles, we “overuse” the muscles in our middle and lower back to compensate.
Awakening the gluteals in a productive way can take a lot of pressure off those poor back muscles. Let the back relax while the glutes do their proper job. A combination of targeted stretches and exercises can help bring these important gluteal muscles back to life.
Here are 3 exercises you can do in the privacy of your own home, with no equipment, that can help get your glutes (and hamstrings) fired up again:
1. Pelvic curl and bridge-
Single leg deadlift (more advanced)-
And that's it! Some simple exercises you can do at home to help take the pressure off your lower back. Of course, if you are having ongoing concerns with back pain, it is always best to get checked by a health professional. Good luck!
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2016 there were 3.79 million students enrolled in schools across the country. Many of these students carry their backpacks or school bags overloaded or poorly fitted, resulting in a variety of injuries including neck pain, muscle spasms, tingling hands, headaches and lower back pain.
As parents, there are a number of important issues you need to know in order to prevent backpack related injuries and promote spinal health in your kids. When choosing a new backpack, it’s recommended you select ergonomically designed features that enhance safety and comfort. Importantly, a number of Australian and International health bodies recommend that the weight of a child’s backpack should not exceed 10 to 12 percent of their own body weight.
Choosing the Backpack: Here are six tips on choosing the best pack for your child-
Once you have taken the proper steps in choosing, packing and wearing the school backpack, please continue to monitor your child. It is extremely important to encourage your child or teenager to tell you about any pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack. If necessary, talk to your child and their teachers to ensure that what your child is being carried back and forth to school is really required each day.
We know that posture and spinal health is impacted by a combination of factors including good muscle control, strength and flexibility. So, get your child moving with swimming, dance, martial arts, gymnastics, football, netball, soccer or any other organized activity. Becoming involved with sporting activities helps develop muscle tone as well as self-confidence, which can also influence posture.
I hope this helps you in your important role of caring for your child or teenager’s spine during their school years. If you have any further questions or would like any further advice you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org