Medically Reviewed By | Dr. Kate Panawash, PT, NCS, DPT
Do you often find that you are in pain at the end of the day, particularly in your back, neck, or shoulders? This is extremely common amongst office workers, those who do physical jobs, and anyone who has to stand or sit in one position for a long period of time. If this experience sounds familiar, your posture may be the problem.
WHAT IS POSTURE AND WHY SHOULD YOU IMPROVE YOURS?
Posture refers to the ways you hold your body while standing, sitting, or moving. Good posture involves maintaining balance and alignment between various parts of your body, including your head, neck, spine, and limbs; while slouching, hunching over, or otherwise holding your body in a way that puts extra strain on your muscles and joints are often viewed as poor posture. Katelyn Panawash, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Board Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist (NCS), stresses that no one position is strictly bad: “Your body is resilient. What’s important is making sure to regularly move your body into new positions to avoid causing significant discomfort or putting extra strain on certain areas without giving them a break.”
Good posture is not just about how you look. It can also have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. Read on to learn just some of the reasons you might want to improve your posture… and how to do it!
GOOD POSTURE HELPS PREVENT CHRONIC PAIN
Poor posture is one of the most common causes of chronic pain, particularly pain centered in the neck, shoulders, and back. When you slouch or hunch over, your spine is not properly aligned. This puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints and, over time, can lead to chronic pain and even serious conditions such as herniated discs and sciatica.
By improving your posture, you can help to lower your risk of chronic pain in the future or to reduce any pain you may already be experiencing.
GOOD POSTURE BOOSTS YOUR ENERGY LEVELS
Your posture can affect your energy levels. When you stand or sit in a slumped position, your body has to work harder. Over time, this can have a significant cumulative effect on your energy, making you feel more tired and fatigued than you otherwise would.
Conversely, practicing good posture can allow your spine, muscles and ligaments to work as they were intended to do, helping you to preserve your energy for other activities.
GOOD POSTURE CAN IMPROVE DIGESTION
Did you know that your posture can impact your digestive system? Slouching after eating puts extra pressure on your abdomen, which can increase your risk of heartburn (an often painful condition caused by stomach acid traveling up towards your throat.)
Sitting for long periods of time with bad posture can also put additional strain on your stomach and intestines, causing food to move through your system much more slowly. This can lead to bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other digestive complications.
By improving your posture, you can improve your digestion, allowing food to move through your body more efficiently and helping you to maintain overall good health.
GOOD POSTURE ENHANCES YOUR MENTAL CLARITY
How you sit, stand, and move can have an impact on how you think and feel. A slouched position makes it more difficult for your body to take in enough oxygen, which can contribute towards the dreaded “brain fog.” Poor posture can also contribute towards tension headaches, making it harder to concentrate and think clearly.
By improving your posture, you can give yourself a greater degree of mental clarity and begin to feel more alert, focused, and productive throughout the day.
GOOD POSTURE BOOSTS YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE
When you have good posture, you look taller, project a more confident demeanor, and look and feel more attractive. This can make you feel better about yourself, boosting your self-esteem and in turn altering how other people respond to you.
Slouching or hunching over sends the message that you are feeling self-conscious and trying not to be seen. This can affect your interactions with others as well as how you feel about yourself.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
Now that you know the benefits of good posture, you might be wondering how you can improve yours. Here are some quick top tips to help you get started.
LEARN HOW GOOD POSTURE FEELS AND PRACTICE AWARENESS
The first step to improving your posture is to be aware of and attuned to it. Pay attention to how you sit, stand, and walk throughout the day. Notice when you are slouching or hunching over–does this tend to happen more when you are stressed, tired, or engrossed in a task?
The Mayo Clinic offers this fantastic guide to posture. Take the time to learn how good posture feels in your body and, each time you notice yourself slouching or slipping into bad posture, simply correct it. Over time, muscle memory will kick in and this will become second nature. “This is a critical aspect of long-term success,” notes Dr. Panawash. “The more consistently you correct your posture, the more your muscles will adapt to the new alignment, helping to alleviate strain on muscles and joints. It's essential to be patient and persistent in reinforcing good posture habits to allow muscle memory to take effect.”
STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE MUSCLES
Your core muscles play a crucial role in maintaining good posture. Strengthening your core muscles can help you maintain a neutral spine position and reduce strain on your muscles and joints over time. Exercises such as planks, bridges, and crunches are amazing for core strength!
Tight muscles can contribute to poor posture. Stretching regularly can help you maintain flexibility and reduce tension in your muscles. Try stretching for 10-15 minutes in the morning and evening, as well as pausing for some quick stretches throughout the day. You’ll be surprised how quickly it helps!
A common complaint from those who spend most of their day sitting is a tightness in the front of the hip and thigh. To help alleviate this, Dr. Panawash recommends standing up and gently leaning backward for 1-2 minutes. While you’re up, slowly twist side-to-side a few times. She notes that ideally, you could do moves like this hourly.
USE ERGONOMIC EQUIPMENT
Using ergonomic equipment, such as an adjustable chair and a standing desk, can make a big difference to your posture. Seek expert advice and don’t be afraid to try out a few different products to find what works for you.
If you struggle with back pain due to bad posture, consider adding Incrediwear’s wearable anti-inflammatory therapy into your routine for enhanced comfort and recovery. Specifically, our back brace is great for those dealing with back pain. This best-selling recovery wear piece is designed to provide adjustable support and pain relief post-activity.