Poor posture is becoming a serious problem in many countries. While the Covid-19 pandemic grips all the headlines, and the obesity epidemic grabs all the attention of health experts, poor posture tends to get ignored. It shouldn’t be, though. Poor posture is a contributing factor of many different health issues, and each of those problems can cause or worsen other health issues. But what causes poor posture?
This problem is common even in less developed countries. Chairs weren’t invented until long after humans came along, so sitting isn’t a natural position for humans to be in. As a result, our bodies aren’t adapted to sitting for long periods of time and doing so puts our spine out of alignment. It is by far the biggest killer of good posture. This is becoming especially more true as our lifestyles in the US become more oriented around office and computer work.
In addition to all the sitting we do, we make it worse with our technology. Computer screens and phones have us looking down all the time, bending our necks and leaning forward to stare at the screen. This isn’t a natural position for the next to be in, stretching and stressing the muscles and joints. This weakens them, making it even harder to retain proper posture.
Phones also cause another problem, especially if we use our necks to cradle phones to keep our hands free. This is an incredibly awkward position for our necks and it deals a lot of damage. The stress can cause headaches, pain, numbness in the neck and shoulders, and over extended periods of time, swelling and blood clots.
3. Bad Sleeping Positions
When we lay out to sleep, our bodies will sit in that position for as much as 8 hours at a time. If our sleeping position is in bad posture, then our body adapts to that position during our waking hours as well. Some bad ways to sleep include:
1. Sleeping on your back with a pillow
Sleeping on your back is the best position to sleep in. While sleeping, your neck is supposed to be straight, but if you sleep on your back with a pillow under your head, it bends your neck forward. If you sleep on your back, either sleep without a pillow, or use a very small, flat pillow that doesn’t stretch your neck.
2. On the Side Without Proper Support
Although it’s not as good as sleeping on your back, it’s still an okay sleep position if you properly support yourself. To do this, you need a pillow proportionate to your shoulders so that your neck remains straight. Additionally, you need to support your lower back and hips by putting a pillow between your legs. If you don’t, the weight of your legs stretches your lower back. It puts stress on your knee and hip joints as well, which can put you at greater risk of arthritis.
3. On Your Stomach
Never do this. Ever. It doesn’t come with any specific posture problems, but it causes all of your organs to put pressure on your heart and lungs, leading to breathing trouble, poor circulation, and heart problems later in life.
4. Lack of Exercise
Our bones are the foundation of our posture, but they’re held in place by muscles. If our muscles are weak, they won’t be able to hold our body straight. This is becoming an increasingly common problem in countries like the US, where we’re spending more time watching TV and playing video games and less time going outside. As our lifestyles become more sedentary, our muscles weaken and this exacerbates all of the problems caused by our overuse of computers and phones.
Perhaps the most hated contributor to poor posture is the backpack. It’s hated, not because it causes poor posture, but because it represents school. School is twelve years of imprisonment in overcrowded rooms full of bullies, judgmental cliques, stuffy air, and unpleasant English teachers who forbid you to read Fahrenheit 451 because it’s an inappropriate portrayal of authority figures (or perhaps that last one was just me). Sorry, I’ve gotten distracted.
Backpacks are a serious problem. The weight can pull a student’s spine out of place, regardless of how it’s worn. This is especially bad for young students, who are still growing. If children’s backpacks are pulling their posture out of place while they’re bones and muscles develop, they’ll develop around the poor posture, making it harder to develop proper posture as adults.
What Can We Do?
If you want to avoid poor posture, it’s really very simple: don’t do the things that cause bad posture.
Sitting causes posture problems, so don’t sit too long. Get a standing desk, or use chairs without backs so you’re forced to sit upright and balanced. Get up and walk around for 15 to 20 minutes after you’ve sat for an hour.
Technology causing posture problems? Hold your phone up even with your eye-line so you don’t have to look down at it. Use ergonomic desk designs to keep yourself from having to bend your neck to look at your computer. In general, use computers and phones less, because . . .
You need to exercise more. At the core, we all need strong muscles to keep our bones held in proper posture. When we go without exercising, we don’t have the strength to maintain proper posture. Additionally, stress causes muscle tension, which can further injure our muscles and harm our posture. Since physical activity is one of the body’s ways of relieving stress, not only will it help with posture, we’ll feel better to boot.
As students, or parents taking care of students, we should monitor the weight of our backpacks. If you can’t keep the weight down, try carrying your books in a wagon, or similar device that doesn’t put all that weight on your shoulders and upper back.
Stand Up Straight, It’s Your Future
There are many ways that poor posture affects our health. The effects don’t show up right away, but build up over time. They cause chronic pain, fatigue, and are a contributing factor to a whole host of other health concerns. If we want to enjoy life more, we need to keep good posture practices. The activities we need to do for good posture are also major factors that reduce the chances of other health issues, such as heart disease, poor circulation, and even cancer. If we go out of our way to have better posture, we’ll experience better overall health and live happier lives.