The Long Term Effects of Bad Posture

“Stand up straight!” How many times did your mother utter these words when you were growing up — especially during your teen years? Good posture comes naturally to small children, but somewhere along the way, for many of us, good posture gradually gives way to poor posture.

What is Good Posture?

The key to good posture involves standing, sitting, lying down, and moving in such a way that ensures that your skeletal system stays in alignment. Bad posture — slumping, hunching the shoulders, slouching, etc. — results in misalignment along the spinal system. Failing to correct this misalignment has serious implications, not only for the skeletal system but for the body’s organs as well.

When you practice good posture you’re aligning your spine with all of its adjoining structures. Your ear lobes are at the same level (head not tilted to either side or jutting forward), your shoulders are at the same level, arms are by your side with the thumbs facing out, hips are at the same level, your back is straight save for the three slight curves* that naturally exist, and your knees and feet are pointed straight ahead. That said, correcting poor posture can be tricky if you have a congenital abnormality to contend with, such as having one leg that’s shorter than the other or having spinal scoliosis. However, more often than not, bad posture is simply the result of years of bad habits.

*upper cervical curve, mid-thoracic curve, and lower lumbar curve

How Poor Posture Affects Your Body

Good posture is essential to the proper functioning of your body. A list of the things that are affected by poor posture shows why …

  • Muscles are used improperly when bones and joints are out of alignment.
  • Poor posture contributes to the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces often resulting in joint problems like arthritis.
  • Poor posture increases stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
  • It contributes to the spine becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
  • Poor posture causes fatigue because muscles are being used inefficiently.
  • Poor posture causes strain and/or overuse problems.
  • It directly contributes to neck pain, back pain, and muscular pain.
  • Some forms of chronically bad posture can actually affect normal growth patterns.
  • Bad posture can even affect your breathing, your blood pressure, and your digestive system.

In short, poor posture affects virtually everything in your body!

The Technology Factor

These days nearly everybody interacts with technology on a daily basis. Whether it’s texting on your smartphone, using a computer at work, surfing the internet, or playing video games, all of us — young and old — are susceptible to posture problems that are uniquely tied to our technologically driven lives. Consider the fact that a 2014 study published in the medical journal Surgery Technology International found that texting alone can add more than 50 lbs. of pressure on a person’s spine. (Data based on bending your head at a 60-degree angle to send and receive texts for 2-4 hours per day — the average time we spend with our necks bent for texting.) All that extra pressure on the cervical spine can lead to early wear and tear and degeneration. It makes sense, then to learn a new, less stressful posture for texting as well as reducing the time you spend sending and receiving those texts!

Considering that we also spend hours hunched over a computer, it’s no wonder that technology-related postural problems are on the rise!

Seek Help from a Physical Therapist

A physical therapist can provide a complete evaluation of your posture and identify the postural problems that are particular to you. She can then design a program of exercises to correct them and/or prevent problems that already exist from worsening.

If you suspect (or know) that you have a problem with your posture — and most of us do — make an appointment with a physical therapist for an evaluation today. In Northeastern Pennsylvania, trust the expert team of physical therapists at Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab. Call us today at 570-208-2787 to learn which of our five locations is nearest you!

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