In one word: YES!
Posture is the most undervalued aspect of health in our society today.
Posture affects our everyday activities of daily living, good posture allows for freedom of motion and bad posture eventually creates pain and orthopedic dysfunction.
At this very moment, almost 35% of us are experiencing back pain, some of it chronic. That is approximately ten million people! An enormous number. Estimated and reliable sources conclude between 80% – 90% of our population have experienced and reported some type of spine pain in their lifetime. Huge numbers. Joint and back pain is what people are most likely to see their doctors about, next to a persistent cough.
Low back pain keeps us out of work. This has enormous economic consequences for productivity alone. It equally affects small and large businesses. Along with back pain, the worker is also hit in the purse, insurance premiums are increased, and wages must go down.
Most people think spine pain is as a result of trauma like a slip and fall, an injury at work or a car accident. The fact is, most back or neck pain is insidious. That means from no known cause. It does not make sense bending over to tie your sneaker can herniate a disc, with ensuing searing back pain.
The fact of the matter is most back, and neck pain is a result of years of muscle imbalance, joint erosion, ligament/tendon over or under performing. Why does it happen? It begins with bad posture or poor postural habits. And it doesn’t happen overnight; it is accumulated over the years.
Back pain takes years to develop until a tipping point is reached.
Each one of us knows people with back or neck problems; it is not uncommon for entire families to have some form or back or neck pain. Genetics? In some cases, but more likely “posture” was not emphasized as important. Spinal surgery has increased dramatically over the last decade even though evidence suggests a questionable outcome. The first surgery often begins a downward spiral into other procedures ultimately leading to poor health.
In the news recently we read about an American opioid epidemic. Back pain is a major reason why people initially begin taking opioids. Unfortunately, this is a quick solution with very bad side effects: drug addiction and death by overdose. It is understandable to start taking medication. your physician has prescribed, when your life is virtually “on hold” because of pain. No one, including your doctor, knew how addictive these drugs could be.
Before I launch into why bad posture equals bad health, let me state this: Most back and neck pain can be eliminated or, at the very least, managed, without surgery or pain medication. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but first, we need to understand how very important it is to attain and then maintain a balanced body. Balanced front to back, side to side, and top to bottom.
Finally, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society have issued new guidelines for treating back and neck pain which does not include pain medication as the first line of treatment. They are now recommending lifestyle changes which include exercise, massage therapy, acupuncture and spinal manipulation – body work.
It’s Not Just About The Pain.
Posture should be looked at as a cause, or a major contributing factor to health problems. This includes pulmonary, cardiac, gut dysfunction, depression, and circulation.
How is it possible to take a full, deep breath when your back is rounded and your chin so close to your chest? It isn’t. Try it yourself. By lifting up your head and chest you can fill the entire lung. So many of us spend the greater part of each day; every day slouched over. As a consequence, we are taking more rapid shallow breaths, using only the very top part of our lungs.
Here is how shallow breathing affects us:
- Reduced oxygen intake. This isn’t just a lung issue; it’s a brain issue. The second and largest artery coming from the heart (aorta) transporting rich oxygenated blood goes directly to the brain (the first artery goes back to feed the heart muscle itself). The brain is the CPU of the body and needs oxygen-rich blood first before addressing other needs of the body.
- Using only the upper part of the lung causes the lower part to become lazy and weak. Think about this, if you only used your right hand, how functional would the left one be? Not nearly as strong or as rapidly responsive.
- Poor lung function can delay resolution of chest colds. This can develop into pneumonia, particularly problematic for those who already have lung issues.
- Less air (O2) in means less carbon dioxide (CO2) out. This leads to CO2 overload. CO2 is toxic, can cause asphyxiation, muscle cramping, and dizziness.
- Poor quality oxygenation creates fatigue, immune suppression, reduce vitality, premature aging, sleep disturbances, visual problems, chest pain and heart palpitations.
Cancer doesn’t kill most people, heart disease does. This is how poor posture affects cardiac function.
- Blood pressure. Your heart must work harder to maintain proper pressure just from the load of the chest wall on the heart when you have a slouched posture.
- Chronic slouching can lead to an aortic diastolic heart murmur. This is an irregular heartbeat.
- Short and tight muscles in the chest are painful. You think you have a heart attack, leading to anxiety, and subliminal panic attack. This can increase adrenaline and cortisol, both stress hormones.
- Your heart works harder than it was designed leading to premature dysfunction.
The gut includes the stomach, small and large intestines.
- Sitting or standing with your belly dumping forward pushes your stomach, diaphragm, and intestines upwards. Eventually, the enlarged girth causes the bottom ribs to flare out and wing up. When this becomes the new norm, you will be thicker in your waist.
- Increased gut pressure affects digestion as it impairs blood flow to the stomach and slows the process down. It can also lead to malabsorption especially the carbohydrates.
- Digestion problems lead to bloat. Gas gets trapped in the intestines causing flatulation (farting).
- Improper digestion or malabsorption affects lower GI function, with bouts of intermittent constipation/diarrhea.
- Although, not the GI tract, bad sitting posture puts excessive pressure on the bladder which can lead to “urgency” and mishaps.
This small but very important organ is located in the upper left quadrant of the torso. It is easy to see how poor posture can affect it.
- The pancreas produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that carries glucose (blood sugar) to the muscles for energy. Cells in idle muscles don’t respond as quickly to insulin, so the pancreas makes more of it. This is diabetes, ineffective blood/sugar regulation.
- Diabetes is a no-joke health problem, and the vast majority of diabetes is adult onset Type II. Considered “lifestyle” diabetes, it must be carefully monitored several times per day and leads to a host of bad medical conditions.
Circulation refers to all the blood vessels: arteries mostly, red in color, bring oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body, while veins, mostly blue in color, return deoxygenated, carbon dioxide rich (spent) blood back to the heart.
- Poor posture can cause blood to move slower or faster in the body and is regulated by the kidneys. The kidneys are above the waist and toward the bottom of the ribcage. Sometimes kidney pain feels like back pain.
- Problems with circulation can cause spider veins, decreased circulation to the skin (i.e., Wrinkles), poor muscle movement.
- Serious problems with circulation include a peripheral aneurysm (in the legs).
The skeleton is the frame; the muscles move the body. Absolutely everything to do with posture. The body was built to be balanced, front to back, side to side and top to bottom. It was also meant to work like a symphony, all parts different but each doing their job.
People have come to accept problems with one part or the other not working properly – a function of aging. This is incorrect thinking. How could one hip have a shelf life of 45 years while the other is good for 85 years? Something must have caused excessive wear and tear.
How do we move? It is a cascade of events. A nerve sends a message to a muscle and the muscle twitches (contracts). The muscle is attached to a tendon or ligament, and that contraction causes a bone to move. A joint is where two bones interact and are held close together, never touching, by a joint capsule. Joint capsules allow for movement between two adjacent bones.
If there is insufficient room between these two bones or one bone is not in alignment with the other bone, you have incorrect movement.
Poor posture creates an improper balance between the bones and muscles leading to eventual joint distortion.
The muscles adapt to the imbalance (muscle memory) and voila! We have created a new norm. Incorrect, but normal. An example of this: chronic muscle tightness in the back causing an inability to extend the torso fully. Incorrect, but normal for that person.
Poor posture cause muscles to misbehave. Some muscles are triggered to be continuously engaged, while others are doing nothing. Our bodies were designed to use everything supplied to it. Large muscles create gross (big) movement. Small muscles create fine, more exact motion. Ideally, we need both large and small muscles to be engaged at the same time. We do not have excess “parts” – even our fat cells are here for a purpose: a food reserve; to maintain body temperature, and as padding for bony points to decrease injury to the area. Sometimes the fat cells swell up, and sometimes they shrink, but we lose them only if we cut them out or have liposuction.
Overdevelopment of some muscles, like the pectoralis (pecs) pull the shoulders forward and round the back. It’s fine to work on the chest, but to balance that out we need to work on the back muscles. Many weight lifters forget this and as a consequence experience neck and upper back pain.
Pain is the body’s alarm system. Something is wrong!
We do not have excess “parts” – even our fat cells are here for a purpose: a food reserve; to maintain body temperature, and as padding for bony points to decrease injury to the area. Sometimes the fat cells swell up, and sometimes they shrink, but we lose them only if we cut them out or have liposuction.
Being musculoskeletally imbalanced causes muscles and joints to degenerate. This leads to problems like arthritis and thinning of the discs. It takes some time before a critical mass is reached and then the alarm rings. If your body is not balanced, you create excess wear and tear on other areas of your body like in the hips, knees, and neck. Here is a perfect example of imbalance. PIX
Take a look at this image. At first glance, everything looks pretty normal.
If you take a closer look you will notice most of his weight is on his left leg, his hip pushed to the left, and his right knee is bent. Further, his pelvis in posterior causing his back to be flatter than it should be. No problem at 30, low back and hip pain at 50. Many, many people stand like this, always on the same side. It is no surprise hip replacement surgeries are one-third more common today than appendectomies.
As a result of Amy Cuddy’s work, we know power poses affect our hormones and our attitudes. Power poses, good posture, increases testosterone and decreases cortisol – the stress hormone. A cowering (or slouching) postures increases cortisol. Everyone wants to look taller and thinner with a better command of their universe. Great posture improves confidence levels thus decreases depression.
How to Start Improving Your Posture Right Now
Creating great posture is more than pulling your shoulders back
Everyone can fake good posture, but for how long? The second your mind moves to another thought, your normal, albeit incorrect, posture returns. Anyone can improve a lasting, no-thought-about-it posture, regardless of age or activity level, but it does take some work. Here are the three main ingredients for better posture:
Align your spine.
Stand with your heels, pelvis, back, and head against the wall. Do not lift your chin. With your arms straight and against the wall, palms up, slowly slide your arms up the wall until they are shoulder height. Try to keep the shoulders down through this movement. Practice this a lot, 3 – 5 times per day.
Increase your flexibility
Lay flat on the floor, with your arms at 45 degrees, palms up. Lift only your back and chest off the floor and hold for a count of 5. Repeat this three times. Take a break and repeat the exercise.
Increase your core strength
Do planks. This is the best and fastest method to help put muscle on the core. Keep your back, head, and butt in a perfect line. Try and hold for one minute. If you can’t hold it that long, just bend your knees, take a break and pop right back into a perfect plank.
VERY SIMPLE, CONSISTENT PRACTICE CAN CHANGE YOUR POSTURE, FOREVER.
Dr Beverley Marr, posture expert, chiropractor, co-founder of PurePosture. She believes poor posture is a root cause of many health issues prevalent today. To read about Dr Marr click here. To learn more about PurePosture click here.