A growing body of research deems sitting “the new smoking,” so it’s no secret anymore that sitting for prolonged periods of time can wreak havoc on your health. However, the toll on our bodies is infinitely worse if prolonged sitting is accompanied by bad posture. Since there is a strong connection between good posture and physical and emotional wellbeing, complications from sitting incorrectly for 6+ hours range from improper spine alignment and indigestion to advanced states of anxiety and depression. Here are five unexpected ways bad posture messes with your health:
- Can Cause Gastrointestinal Pains
Your body relies on movement to push food from your stomach through your intestines. Remaining in a seated position for a long time compresses your digestive organs and leaves little room for food and excretions to flow optimally, thus causing your gastrointestinal system to slow down significantly. Potential complications include bloating, constipation, acid reflux, and delayed metabolic conversion.
- Reduces Lung Function
Poor posture places restrictions on the diaphragm expansion abilities, decreasing your breathing volume and making it harder to draw a deep breath. Allowing slouching to become a habit can lead to habitual shallow, less-effective breathing, which can reduce a person’s lung function and negatively affect overall health. By lifting the rib cage and preventing abdominal muscles from becoming contracted, the stress on the lungs and diaphragm is significantly reduced, allowing an improvement in lung capacity by up to 30 percent.
- Leads to Shoulder Impingement
Slouching causes the head to weigh significantly more on the neck, putting stress on the cervical spine and increasing the demand on the muscles that support the head upright. If such incorrect position is sustained for hours on end, it may lead to restricted blood circulation and increased blood pressure. In addition, the forward head posture can also apply pressure on nerves and cause tingling, numbness, and pain in the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. In time, rounded shoulders can weaken the back and shoulder muscles, expose tendons to fraying and tearing, and limit the range of motion.
- Causes Head and Jaw Pains
Bad posture can also cause headaches and affect oral health. Leaning the head forward while seated makes the lower jaw to shift forward, thus preventing the upper and lower teeth from fitting properly together. Over time, this less-than-ideal position puts stress on the muscles, joints, and bones, causing one or more of the following symptoms: headache, jaw, neck, or shoulder pain, ringing in the ears, facial swelling, dizziness, difficulty biting, popping or locking jaws, etc.
- Lowers Your Happiness Level
Science has proven more than once that our spinal and muscular alignment affects how we feel about ourselves. Now authors of a new study have found that those in an upright position have reported feeling more excited, enthusiastic, and confident, while participants in a slumped position reported feeling hostile, stressed, still, passive, sleepy, sluggish, and more fearful. Correct posture was also linked with less social fear and fewer negative emotions.
Tips to Correct Your Posture
As you can see, bad posture affects more than just your physical appearance; a stooped posture prolonged over the years can irremediably derail your long-term health goals. To start improving your posture and prevent future misalignments in your spine, do the following:
- First of all, acknowledge and be aware of your posture at all times
- Stretch and open up every couple of minutes in order to improve your range of motion
- Strengthen your core. Perform these simple exercises each morning and night: while lying on the floor or sitting next to a wall, make ‘snow angels’ with your arms for a couple of minutes; roll your shoulders up and down; do sitting rows, standing rows, and pull-ups
- Use your entire foot when walking. Bear your weight on the balls of your feet instead of the heel to prevent your feet from becoming weak and turning in
- Relax and breathe. In addition to aiding with body awareness and concentration, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are excellent ways to build muscle strength and flexibility
If you feel the need for specialized help for improving your posture, an experienced chiropractor who uses a science-based approach can put you on the right track faster than any other home remedy. Remember, however, that longtime postural problems may take a bit longer to properly address, and it’s essential to cooperate with your chiropractor to be able to move towards a healthier body position.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.