Everything you need to know about your postureMarch 13 2022
How Poor Posture Affects Our Body
Posture is the position in which you hold your body. It describes how your spine is aligned with your head, shoulders and hips. There are two main types of posture: Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself when you are moving, when you are walking, running, or bending over to pick up something. Static posture is how you hold yourself when you are not moving, when you are sitting, standing, or sleeping.
Poor posture is the posture that results from certain muscles tightening up or shortening while others lengthen and become weak, which often occurs as a result of one's repetitive daily activities. This may lead to a misalignment of the spine in relation to your head, shoulders and hips potentially causing pain, injury, or other health problems.
There is no “perfect” posture, just as there are no perfect bodies. Good posture refers to having a neutral spine, where your muscle groups, joints, and ligaments are aligned in a way that reduces stress on them, keeps your body flexible, reduces fatigue, and helps maintain your balance.
If your posture is out of alignment for a long period of time, it could lead to:
- Muscle or joint strain
- Neck or back pain
- Injuries during exercise, work or other activities
Because of the rising popularity of media devices such as smartphones and computers, frequent users often have incorrect body posture.
Signs of poor posture
- Head and shoulders shifted forward
- Increased curve of the middle and lower back
- Increased stress on the hips, knees, ankles
Symptoms of poor posture
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Numbness in hands
- Low back pain
- Numbness in legs
- Hip/knee/ankle pain
Types and causes
There are 4 main types of poor posture:
- Forward Head Posture
- Kyphosis Posture
- Hyperlordosis Posture
- Flatback Posture
1. Forward Head Posture (FHP)
This happens when the head is positioned with your ears in front of the vertical midline of your body. If your body is in alignment, your ears and shoulders will be lined up with your vertical midline.
This is often linked with muscle imbalance, where the muscles of the neck, shoulders and chest are out of balance (some are too tight others are too weak).
FHP is also known as tech/text neck as it often comes from hunching over a mobile phone or computer but, it can also result from the aging process, as you lose muscle strength in your upper body.
Severe FHP can lead to:
- Neck pain and fatigue
- Decreased range of motion in the cervical spine
- Early disc degeneration in the neck
- Potential shoulder and arm pain
FHP affects up to 86.8% of today’s general population.
2. Kyphosis posture (KP)
This refers to an exaggerated curvature of your upper back (the thoracic spine) where the shoulders are rounded forward also known as hunchback.
Osteoporosis (bone thinning) can cause the shoulders to round as your spinal bones weaken with age. It’s frequently seen in older women.
It is also seen in teenagers, whose bones are growing rapidly, due to the repetitive slouching and carrying back packs on one shoulder, leading to unbalanced muscle strength.
Severe KP can lead to:
- Pain and stiffness in the upper back and between the shoulder blades
3. Hyperlordosis Posture (HP)
This occurs when the hips and pelvis tilt forward, in front of the body’s midline, leading to an exaggerated lower back inward curve. Human spines are naturally curved, but too much curve can cause problems.
This condition is also called swayback or saddleback.
HP can be developed by prolonged sitting, which tightens the muscles of the back and weakens the muscles of the abdomens and glutes. It can also be caused by obesity, spinal injury, wearing high heels for prolonged periods of time.
Severe HP can lead to:
- Low back pain
- Protruding abdomen
- Protruding buttock muscles
- Problems with balance and coordination in the whole body
- Restricted movement
It can happen in all ages, to men and women equally, and is quite rare in children. It is a reversible condition.
4. Flatback Posture (FBP)
This is a condition where the normal curve of the lower spine loses some of its curvature and the lower back looks straight, and the general posture is stooped forward.
It can be congenital (present since birth) or it can result from some kinds of back surgery, scoliosis, ankylosing spondylitis (inflammatory arthritis), disc degeneration, and vertebrae compression.
Severe FBP can lead to:
- Pain when standing for prolonged periods of time
- Groin pain
- Tight back
- Difficulty standing straight
- Leg pain
Symptoms of FBP often worsen as the day goes on as, due to the pain, the body will tend to lean further and further forward. The severity of symptoms often depends on the amount of curvature present and associated difficulty with standing upright.
Other types of poor posture:
A. Poking chin
B. Uneven shoulders or hips
A. Poking Chin
Sitting in a chair that’s too low and leaning forward to see your screen or looking up at a screen that’s placed too high can result in a chin that pokes forward.
Most commonly affects office workers as they will be sitting frequently and for prolonged periods of time. This posture can lead to neck and shoulder pain, headaches, heavy head feeling, tight neck muscles.
Luckily this posture can be changed quite easily if the underlying causes are addressed. Correcting a poking chin posture involves improving the sitting habits and exercises to correct the overall posture of the body.
B. Uneven shoulder or hips
Standing straight when waiting in a queue or sitting in a neutral position for prolonged periods of time is not easily sustainable. We all end up sooner or later tilting to one side when standing or hunching when sitting for long time.
If the body is correctly aligned, the shoulders will be at the same height and facing forward and, the hips will be straight above the legs.
Uneven shoulders occur when one shoulder is higher than the other one. There can be a problem if there is significant difference in the shoulder height. This can be caused by always carrying a heavy handbag on the same shoulder and always using one side of the body only for daily activities. This can also happen if there are some structural issues or musculo-skeletal imbalances in the body such as significant leg length difference or scoliosis. This can lead to stiffness and/or pain felt in the back of the shoulders, rounded shoulders, headaches and potentially reduced range of motion of the shoulder joints. If scoliosis is the cause of the uneven shoulder height, then one shoulder blade will be more prominent than the other one with an uneven waist.
Uneven hips occur when one hip is higher than the other one, also called pelvic tilt dysfunction. The pelvis, being the basin shaped structure that supports the spine and protects some of the abdominal organs, is located centrally in the human body connecting the upper body to the lower body. When the pelvis tilts to one side or the other it can have an impact on the structures that are above and below the pelvis such as the upper back, shoulders, neck, knees, ankles and feet. The symptoms and treatments depend on the reason why the hips are uneven, the main reasons for uneven hips are scoliosis and a difference in leg length, these stem from posture and stance issues.
Causes of poor posture
Many factors play a role in the development of a poor posture:
- Spending a long time leaning over a small screen
- Slouching in a chair
- Repetitive movements (workplace, home, hobbies etc)
- Carrying a heavy backpack on one shoulder instead of two
- Standing for long periods of time on one leg
- Being overweight or pregnant
- Wearing poor quality shoes or high heels
- Have one leg shorter than the other or being born with scoliosis (an abnormally curved spine)
Seeking medical care
If your poor posture is causing you aches and pains, and preventing you from performing you daily activities without discomfort, then you could contact a chiropractor who will assess you. They will help you to determine what’s causing the problem and how to address it, they might also diagnose an underlying condition such as scoliosis or osteoporosis. If they feel that you need help from a GP or a specialist then they will refer you to the right clinician.
How chiropractic can help with poor posture
A chiropractor can help you to improve your posture by finding the underlying cause of your problems.
Before the chiropractor even begins to examine your back, you will be asked questions regarding your daily routines, exercise habits, occupation etc, to assess your posture and your lifestyle. This is an important step because it allows the chiropractor to determine what effects your lifestyle might be having on your whole body and how it can be treated.
Next, the chiropractor will perform a physical examination where you will be assessed on how you sit, how you stand, taking notes on any shoulder imbalance, spinal changes, twisted pelvis or any other asymmetry. Once the information is gathered regarding your posture, the chiropractor will determine the appropriate treatment plan for you to regain optimal function.
Chiropractic adjustments consists of gentle spinal mobilisations and soft tissue work to the surrounding muscles, specific exercises may be recommended to help the nervous system and the joints in the body regain their prime functionality. This will reduce tension and ease your body into regaining optimal posture.
The first step towards correcting poor posture is to become aware of everyday habits that may be affecting how you stand, sit, or lie down.
Here are some simple things to keep in mind if you want to start improving your posture:
- Switch sitting positions often
- Avoid crossing your legs or ankles
- Keep your shoulders relaxed by resting your forearms and elbows on a desk or table
- Stand up frequently
- Take short walks
- Check your mattress quality and age
- Change the configuration of your workstation i.e., standing desk, ergonomic chairs, laptop stands etc
- Regular stretching
Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become used to sitting and standing in a particular way but, with a bit of practice, good posture will become second nature and you will reduce the likelihood of back, neck or joint pain in the longer term.