Is There a Perfect Posture?
“Sit up straight and stop slouching!” You’ve likely heard this since childhood, but is there such a thing as perfect posture? The answer is a bit complicated. The latest research shows that it may be more important to think about a “balanced” or “dynamic” posture than perfect posture, and we’re also discovering that our ability to change positions and move may be more critical than our static position while standing or sitting.
Why it Matters:
Your posture is made up of a dynamic pattern of responses, reflexes, and habits, not a single position. Gravity, your work environment, and your anatomy all play a role. For instance, sitting for hours on end staring at a computer screen is a perfect example of an imbalanced and challenged posture as a result of ergonomics. Over time, this imbalance can lead to forward head posture, which can cause pain and even degenerative changes in your joints. Forward head posture affects millions of people who spend their days using computers. It places stress on the neck and shoulders and weakens the supporting muscles.
- Forward head posture affects millions and results in neck pain for up to 75% of people.
- Neck pain, tension, stiffness, and tenderness are all signs of chronic forward head posture.
- Trapezius strengthening has been shown to provide clinically significant relief for those struggling with neck pain as a result of forward head posture.
Strength and flexibility play a significant role in your posture. Having good core strength and balancing that strength with flexibility can help you dynamically adapt to your environment. While “perfect” posture may not exist, each one of us has an opportunity to improve our strength, flexibility, and ergonomics to reduce our likelihood of experiencing pain. If you spend your days looking at a computer, let us know. We’ll be happy to recommend a care plan to help you balance the effects of all that screen time.
Effects of Lower Trapezius Strengthening Exercises on Pain, Dysfunction, Posture Alignment, Muscle Thickness, and Contraction Rate in Patients with Neck Pain; Randomized Controlled Trial. Medical Science Monitor 2020
Improving Your Posture to Keep Your Spine Healthy
Posture is described as the position that your body maintains while standing, sitting, or lying down. Most experts would agree that “good” posture reduces the stress on your spine by balancing the load placed upon the muscles and ligaments that support it.
Why it Matters:
Good posture is essential because it helps you keep your bones and joints in proper alignment. This helps reduce the wear and tear on your joints and can decrease the strain on the ligaments that support your spine. New research also indicates that maintaining a good or balanced posture can also help you use your muscles more efficiently and prevent fatigue.
To prevent back pain, your best posture may be one of motion. If you sit in one position too long, small nerves will detect the pressure and send messages to your brain, indicating that you’re uncomfortable which prompts you to move.
Researchers believe that these “uncomfortable” signals before pain is our body’s way of telling us to move or change positions. One of the best strategies to reduce neck and low back pain associated with sitting is to use a standing desk.
- Good posture means keeping your spinal curves aligned and weight evenly distributed.
- Changing positions or using a standing desk can help you improve your posture and reduce your risk of neck and back pain.
- Standing desks have been shown to reduce back pain by over 30% compared to sitting at a desk.
One of the best ways to improve your posture is to not stay in a single position for too long. Changing your position throughout the day, using lumbar support when seated, and even using a standing desk, are all ways that you can reduce fatigue and pain.
Postural Stress: The Link Between Tech Neck and Pain
Postural stress occurs not only because of your anatomy but also because of the decisions you make each day. Believe it or not, many of us spend 2 hours or more per day on our smartphones or tablets. That adds up to hundreds, if not thousands, of hours each year! The position we hold our heads in while using these devices is referred to as “tech neck,” and over the past few years, the pain associated with these positions has been growing by leaps and bounds.
Why it Matters:
It’s estimated that tilting your head forward even 15 degrees can increase the weight of your head on your neck by over 3X. Tilting your head forward 60 degrees can nearly 10X the stress and strain on your neck. Over time, this can result in pain, stiffness, dysfunction, headaches, and more. The good news about postural stress and tech neck is that a few simple changes to your routine can help you reduce your risk of experiencing pain.
- Tech neck is the term used to describe the flexed head and neck position that occurs when looking down at your smartphone.
- Even 15 degrees of forward bending (flexion) can increase the stress of your head on your neck by 3X.
- Taking breaks every 15 minutes and looking up from your phone or tablet can help your body reset and give your muscles a chance to relax.
Reducing the symptoms of tech neck is more than merely changing the angle of how you look at your phone. By properly evaluating your ergonomics, we can make personalized recommendations to help your body help you maintain a more balanced posture. By reducing the stress on your neck, you can look forward to many years of continuing to enjoy your smart devices!
The Surprising Link Between Posture and Depression
Have you ever been able to tell what someone’s mood is just by how they walked into a room? We all have! It’s a great example of how our posture and attitude are connected. Within seconds you can look at someone and tell whether they are confident, depressed, withdrawn, or happy. Emotions, posture, and pain sensitivity are all influenced by each other to some degree.
Why it Matters:
Postural change has been linked to depression and other health challenges. Maintaining an unnatural, stooped posture can often create aches and pains that exacerbate depression. It’s a vicious cycle. On the flip side, a recent study discovered that people who were depressed found their mood to improve after they changed their posture.
The exact reason for these changes is yet to be discovered. It may be as simple as people feeling better about themselves by demonstrating a confident posture. Our body posture and position can also influence the release of endorphins, or feel-good chemicals in the brain.
- Slumped posture has been linked with depression symptoms.
- An upright posture has been shown to improve mood.
- Emotions and thoughts affect your posture and energy level.
Look up and pull your shoulders back to reset your mind and body! The next time you are feeling down or depressed, pay attention to your posture. You’ll likely be slumped with your head and neck curved forward and down. A simple change in posture may help you feel more confident, energetic, and happy. And if your posture is causing neck or back pain, give us a call. We’ll be glad to help!
If you’re experiencing depression, we also recommend reaching out to a professional for help.