How Bad Posture Affects Your Body, Literally From Head To Toe, According To Experts
How are you sitting right this second? Are your shoulders hunched in as you lean toward your lap? Is your neck straining downward to face the screen? You may have thought the only reason parents and teachers instructed you to sit up straight was to exert confidence, but how bad posture affects your body physically may be a much bigger concern for your health. Personally, I’ve never once looked at the way my husband hurdles his entire body forward when he’s playing video games and thought, “Wow, his self-esteem must be low.” Instead, I knowingly shake my head because, in a few hours, I know for sure that his neck is going to be feeling one hell of a kink. Sure, posture is about self-presentation to an extent, but I’d argue the physical side effects are what you should really be paying attention to.
Generally speaking, your posture is something you probably don't think about too often. I know myself, and unless someone outwardly comments on the way I'm sitting, I hardly notice it myself. But seriously, do yourself a favor: If you aren't already, sit or stand up tall, with your shoulders back. Notice how that feels. If it's uncomfortable, maybe even a little sore after a minute or two, you're going to want to fix that ASAP, because if you think a few minutes of perfect posture hurts, the following physical struggles are what you can expect from dismissing your stance altogether.
It Can Make It Harder To Breathe Properly
Short of breath? If so, you might want to sit up a little straighter. According to Astrid Swan, NASM, a certified celebrity trainer and Barry's Bootcamp instructor, hunching forward all the time can do a number on your lungs, which might be why breathing doesn't come so easily all the time.
"Hunching forward makes your lungs unable to take in as much oxygen as it needs to fuel your organs, muscles, and brain," she tells Elite Daily.
The problem, though, for a lot of people, is that sitting at a desk might be unavoidable for the majority of the day, especially if you work in an office setting. So how can you fix this? Well, standing desks are an option, but if your workplace doesn't offer that alternative, Dr. Karen Joubert, PT DPT, owner of Joubert Physical Therapy of Beverly Hills, and a celebrity physical therapist whose resume boasts A-list clients like Jennifer Aniston and Cher, says implementing a few breathing exercises into your everyday routine can help.
"[Try doing] deep breathing 10 times throughout the day," Dr. Joubert tells Elite Daily. "Breathe in through the nose 1-2-3, hold 1-2-3, then release through the mouth 1-2-3-4."
Bad Standing Posture Can Put Too Much Stress On Your Feet
Are your soles sore? There's a good chance your standing posture is uneven. It really all comes back to the concept of body awareness: If you're not paying attention to the way you hold yourself up, there's a good chance you'll end up putting too much stress on certain areas. Standing up, but slouching to one side, Dr. Joubert says, will likely do a number on your feet.
"Standing without that body awareness stresses our poor little feet that already have enough to handle," she tells Elite Daily, adding that this can also negatively affect your diaphragm — aka your breathing. Sound familiar?
Less Oxygen Flow Means Less Energy, BTW
Don't be too surprised when your energy levels are low AF at the end of an eight-hour shift propped in front of a computer screen, friends. When slouching leads to poor air flow, Dr. Joubert says it's inevitable that your stamina will follow suit.
The physical therapist breaks it down like this: When the diaphragm can't expand fully, and not enough oxygen gets into the body, "your energy level will also be effected," and not to your advantage. What's more, sitting weakens the entire core to begin with, she says, meaning the act of hunching over puts even more stress on the abdominal muscles and glutes, aka two crucial parts of the body that help you walk and exercise.
Your Back Is Bound To Hurt
Swan sums up bad posture as the moment when "certain muscles shorten, while others lengthen and become weak." When you're hunched over, whether you're sitting or standing, your spine isn't a straight line "from hips to shoulders," she tells Elite Daily. And when your spine is arched for long periods of time, it's really only a matter of time before your back starts to ache.
"Pull your shoulders down and back, relax your neck, engage your abs," Swan suggests, adding that it's important to pay close attention to core work and flexibility by regularly doing exercises like superman lifts, rows, lat pull-downs, and planks.
"I’m not saying you need to do the splits, but being mobile and flexible will help with your overall posture and well being," Swan says.
Your Neck Won't Feel So Great, Either
More often than not these days, I'm willing to bet, for many people, bad posture is a result of looking down at, you guessed it, smartphones. If you think curving your back in all the wrong ways can be painful, just think about how your neck feels. As far as Frank Hoeffner, PT, DPT, of Professional Physical Therapy, is concerned, neck pain is just as common an issue as back pain as a result of bad posture — so where do you go from there?
Well, Hoeffner tells Elite Daily the best line of defense is to consult a physical therapist who can evaluate the situation, but typical recommendations will include things like "standing tall with the shoulders back and sitting up straight with feet firmly on the floor," he explains — basically, things you should already be doing, but probably aren't out of habit.
An Onset Of Migraines Can Happen, Too
This one's probably the most unexpected, yet arguably one of the most common side effects of bad posture. It sounds pretty random, I know, but if I've learned anything about the human body, it's that nothing is out of the realm of possibility.
The American Posture Institute reports that, according to the National Headache Foundation, over 37 million Americans between the ages of 15 and 55 will suffer from migraines, and one of the most overlooked culprits of said migraines is bad posture. Here's how it works: Your brainstem is connected to your spinal cord, which, if you travel all the way down, connects to the base of your sacrum, aka what you basically sit on all day. When your posture is poor, your spinal cord curves, stretches out, and as a result, it's all a giant, painful mess.
Mark Wade, the co-founder of the American Posture Institute, wrote on the organization's website that habitually doing anything that forces you to look down for extended periods of time "changes the curve of the spine and adds pressure to the brainstem and nervous system." And if you're currently dealing with migraines, Wade Wrote, but haven't yet located a root cause that seems to make sense, bad posture could definitely be to blame.