Your Posture Affects Your Body More Than You Think, But These 5 Little Things Can Help

Leandro Crespi, Stocksy

Not to sound crotchety or anything, but all those times mom or grandma told you to sit up straight, you probably should have listened. Before you shoot me the side-eye as if I’m writing this article to put only millennials on blast, new research says anyone who's constantly hunched over can experience the effects of poor posture. So when I strongly suggest you pay attention to things that can help your posture, know that I’m not pointing any accusing fingers, friends; the proposition comes from a place of love. Plus, truth be told, I’m slouching in my chair and crouching over my keyboard at the same damn time RN. So needless to say, I could use the help myself.

Earlier this week, researchers from San Francisco State University (SFSU) let the world in on a little secret: Tech-neck and -back are real, and if your job requires you to be constantly typing and jumping from one browser tab to the next, chances are, you’re feeling it. To prove this, as per the university's press release, the team recruited 87 students to participate in their first round of tests, in which the study subjects were asked to “sit upright with their heads properly aligned on their necks” and turn their heads. From there, students were instructed to “scrunch” their necks and project their heads forward. As a result, 92 percent of students said they were able to turn their heads farther when they weren’t scrunching their necks. Makes sense, no?

The second round of tests included an additional 125 students, who were instructed to scrunch their necks for 30 seconds. As a result, 98 percent reported feeling “some level of pain in their head, neck or eyes,” according to the SFSU press release.

“When your head juts forward at a 45 degree angle, your neck acts like a fulcrum, like a long lever lifting a heavy object. Now the muscle weight of your head and neck is the equivalent of about 45 pounds,” Erik Peper, SFSU professor of holistic health, explained in the press release. Luckily, he added in his statement, these symptoms can be worked through and improved upon. “You can exaggerate the position and experience the symptoms. Then when you find yourself doing it, you can become aware and stop.”

While these findings might not necessarily be considered new information, knowing the repercussions of sitting this way clearly hasn’t convinced many people to be more mindful of their posture, and that’s what’s most problematic: that you and I have an opportunity to improve these habits, yet most of us don’t.

"Bad posture involves poor body positioning," Austin Martinez, director of education for StretchLab, tells Elite Daily. Over time, Martinez notes, this can cause "muscular tension and imbalances that may lead to pain and soreness." Translation: nothing good.

So how can you improve your posture and work through the discomfort you might already be experiencing? Here are a few expert tips to help you out.

Pay Attention To How You're Sitting

Off the bat, you might assume this tip is going to sound like a broken record. Well, first of all, clichés are clichés for a reason: because there's some truth to them. In this case, slouching puts pressure on your lower back, causing you pain and discomfort. That's just a fact of life, and one to take note of at that.

But here's a staggering plot twist for you: Slouching isn't the only major posture faux-paus. Did you know crossing your legs can also cause some major discomfort? Mind-blowing, I know. Troy Diffenderfer, an industry correspondent for Allied Travel Careers who has worked alongside occupational and physical therapists alike, tells Elite Daily that crossing one of your legs over the other also puts pressure on your lower back, so, ideally, you want to sit with your back straight. "Pretend you're balancing a book on your head if that helps," he suggests.

Try Not To Sit Or Stand In The Same Position For Too Long

Listen, I totally understand if you, like me, are an overachiever, and if someone says "sit up straight," you're going to make it your mission to sit up perfectly straight at all times. While I'm sure your body appreciates the effort and enthusiasm, though, Diffenderfer says it's best not to overdo it.

"Many will overcompensate and try to spend hours on end sitting in a rigid, straight-backed position. While it's certainly good posture, this can still put stress on your back," he tells Elite Daily over email. "Ideally, you want to break things up by standing or walking around every few hours."

Invest In A Good Mattress, Because Sleep Plays A Role, Too

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Sorry Queen Bey, but sleep is what actually runs the world. A good night's sleep can improve your eating habits, your energy levels, and it can also help to ease any back pain you've developed as a result of poor posture throughout the day.

"I know you might not be able to shell out a few thousand dollars on a mattress, but you should really consider finding a cheaper option to relieve back pain," Diffenderfer suggests. "Focus on a mattress that will ease the weight on the pressure points in your hips, shoulders, and lower back."

You can also opt for a mattress that's tech-savvy, like Sleep Number's Smart Bed that not only tracks how you sleep, but adjusts its firmness as you move throughout the night. It sounds a little creepy, but it's actually pretty awesome.

Adjust Your Position According To Your Screen

I'm willing to bet that most of us spend at least eight hours in front of the computer each day, and while, sure, that's just the way it is these days, there's no denying the fact that it can take a serious toll on your back.

"For computer users, we usually want to be eye-level with the screen. However, this often puts us in a position where we're hunched over a keyboard," hence the back pain, Diffenderfer says. "Consider a yoga ball, or even a standing desk to combat this bad posture."

If either suggestion isn't available to you, or they're just not really your style, you might want to ask your boss if platforms for your laptops fit within the budget, or if it might be possible to get a larger monitor for your desk. The platforms/stands often come in a range of sizes and looks, and some are even specifically designed to help ease back pain.

Take A Stretch

Dr. Chris Tomshack, founder and CEO of HealthSource Chiropractic, highly suggests scheduling regular breaks throughout your day that will encourage you to change your position at your computer. Try standing up tall, lifting your arms over your head in a V-shape, and then moving them out straight, finally lowering below your shoulders, he explains. This is a good example of what he calls proper "spinal hygiene."

The goal is to engage in some type of simple stretching to loosen your muscles, says Tomshack. In addition to the above stretch, he tells Elite Daily that low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming can also help improve your posture, and work out some of the kinks you might already be experiencing. "However," he says, "if the pain persists, you need to get professional help to determine what is causing the pain."