Is Bad Posture Bad for You?

Kirsten RoesinkBack pain, Neck pain, Physiotherapy

It turns out our parents were right about good posture. Did you know that bad posture can actually make you feel depressed, lower your energy levels, and reduce circulation? Over time, poor posture can wreak havoc on your body, causing pain, stiffness, reduced flexibility, and even injury!

If you spend time hunched over your desk or electronic device, you might develop a curvature of the back and neck. Have weak abdominal muscles? Most likely you slouch. Improper alignment can cause tension headaches, a sore neck, and back, pelvic, or leg pain which can lead to muscle imbalances and tightness that can aggravate other conditions and even contribute to disc degeneration, osteoarthritis, or pelvic floor dysfunction (including incontinence) down the road. 

Correcting your bad habits now will help you combat chronic pain as you age. In addition to your body feeling good because it’s acting the way it should, you’ll instantly look slimmer if you stand straight!

How Do I Know if I Have Good or Bad Posture?

Have someone take a photo of you from the side. Then compare it to the images below and find out which type of posture you have.

1. Proper Posture

Think of a straight line from your ears to the centre of your shoulder, down to your hips, and finally to the middle of your feet. Your ears should be over your shoulders, shoulders rolled back over your rib cage, your rib cage should be stacked over your pelvis, and your pelvis should be stacked over your feet with your knees slightly bent. 

2. Forward Head Posture or “the Chest Collapser”

If you slouch forward with your lower body (pelvis) and back with your shoulders, that means the pelvis and neck are pushed forward, the chest is collapsed, and the buttocks are usually clenched. This can lead to neck, hip, and pelvic pain, as well as other dysfunctions over time.

3. Mid-Back Clencher or “the Chest Puffer”

If you clench your mid-back muscles to push your chest up and out in an effort to maintain good posture, you’re likely experiencing back pain due to stiff and rigid muscles in your lower mid-back. Normally, muscles are able to contract and elongate, but rigid muscles lose that flexibility, leading to stiffness and pain. Once you learn to relax your tight back muscles, you’ll be able to move your rib cage over your pelvis for proper alignment. 

4. “The Butt Clencher”

Some people will clench their buttocks in an effort to stand up straight and have good posture. However, the posterior section of your pelvic floor also gets clenched. Your knees may also start curving backwards because they’re over-extended. This combination can lead to knee degeneration and pain in the groin, hip, and buttocks over time. Many people with this habit suffer from incontinence, constipation and painful intercourse.

How Can I Improve My Posture?

Something simple you can do is imagine someone is pulling a thread from the top of your head upward as you stand up straight without pushing your chest out. Whether you’re in the car, at work, or preparing a meal, thinking about that thread pulling upward along with that straight line from #1 above, can help you change your habits and reduce the stress on your muscles. 

Once you’re in proper alignment, maintain it by stretching daily and doing exercises that will strengthen your core and lengthen your spine, like yoga. If you’re still having trouble maintaining proper posture:

  • Physiotherapy can help you retrain muscles and ligaments by ensuring you have proper posture while completing exercises that will strengthen your core and back, correct muscle imbalances and increase your flexibility and range of motion
  • Orthotics can help correct poor posture due to poor foot biomechanics
  • Postural taping (it’s not just for athletes!)

If you’re aligned properly, your body will move in the most efficient and effective way possible, and you’ll feel the results. 

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