Importance of Good Posture in Relation to the Spine and Overall Health

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What is posture?

Posture refers to the way in which our nervous system, muscles and the skeleton act together to hold the body erect. It is one of the most important aspects when it comes to good health. It is also one of the things that we pay the smallest attention to, and therefore can cause a number of health issues with time. Even though almost all of us have been advised to maintain good posture, not to slouch or to stand up straight, it is highly likely that many of us still engage in bad posture during our day to day activities. If we do not practice good posture from our childhood, our body will be adjusted to being aligned in a specific way that can result in severe pain and issues in joints and muscles.

The neutral spine

Figure 1: The neutral spine. The three curves (cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower)) are in a straight alignment.

Posture plays a significant role in breathing, muscle growth and the ability for us to move. Good posture provides a balance or symmetry to how the body is held. “Neutrality” is an important term when it comes to good posture. It refers to a neutral spine, where all three curves of the spine are in a straight alignment as shown in Figure 1.

Negative effects of bad posture

Poor posture can result in a number of negative effects. The muscles in our bodies must do additional work when we do not maintain good posture. This is because our bodies are designed naturally to be symmetrical. As a result, bad posture can result in large tension forces on the spine, which can result in chronic pain. In addition, difficulties in breathing and tension headaches are also common place in people with bad posture. Bad posture can cause changes in the torques exerted on the antigravity muscles of the body. This can result in various conditions such as repetitive strain syndrome, stenosis and pain that results from nerve root compressions 1.

Back pain is one of the most common conditions associated with bad posture. According to Nowotny and associates, who conducted a study among 125 people assessing body posture, it was found that more than 80% suffered from spinal pain. They concluded that incorrect posture maintained during work related tasks and conditions such as scoliosis, where the spine has a sideway curvature, can increase the probability of back pain1. Another study was conducted by Meziat and associates to identify the relationship between low back pain and posture habits at home among high school adolescents in Rio de Janeiro. Factors such as time spent of watching TV, time spent in front of the computer were also considered during this study. The researchers were able to identify a strong relationship between low back pain and improper posture at home2.

A randomized trial identified that maintaining an upright posture as opposed to a slumped posture can result in better stress response. The researchers also identified that upright posture can help improve self-esteem, increase positive mood and builds resilience to stress3.

Back pain is associated with poor posture

Figure 2: Back pain is associated with poor posture

Elongated periods of sitting can also have an impact on your posture. It is important to be active and break excessive sitting periods to maintain good health. Long periods spent sitting with bad posture can cause increased blood pressure, elevated or abnormal lipid levels and musculoskeletal disorders in the knees, lower back, neck and shoulders4. An Australian study conducted by the University of Queensland has identified that people who spend prolonged periods sitting, which includes sitting at work, driving or sitting in front of the TV, to have an increased risk of being diagnosed with cardio vascular diseases5. Those who sit in automobiles for more than 10 hours a week were found to be 82% more at risk of death from cardiovascular disease, compared to people with less than 4 hours sitting time per week.

Paying attention to your posture and making habitual changes to improve posture can help you avoid various painful conditions associated with bad posture. It is also important to take small breaks if you are involved in a work environment with prolonged sitting periods. Avoiding long periods sitting in front of the TV, playing video games or using the computer can also help you improve your health.

If you would like an assessment or more information to help you improve your posture feel free to call our centre on 8322 1788 or book online to arrange an appointment with one of our chiropractors.

References

  1. Nowotny, J., Nowotny-Czupryna, O., Brzęk, A., Kowalczyk, A., & Czupryna, K. (2011). Body posture and syndromes of back pain. Ortopedia Traumatologia Rehabilitacja, 13(1), 59-71. doi: 10.5604/15093492.933788
  2. Meziat Filho, N., Coutinho, E., & Azevedo e Silva, G. (2014). Association between home posture habits and low back pain in high school adolescents. European Spine Journal, 24(3), 425-433. doi: 10.1007/s00586-014-3571-9
  3. Nair, S., Sagar, M., Sollers, J., Consedine, N., & Broadbent, E. (2015). Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial. Health Psychology, 34(6), 632-641. doi: 10.1037/hea0000146
  4. Daneshmandi, H., Choobineh, A., Ghaem, H., & Karimi, M. (2017). Adverse Effects of Prolonged Sitting Behavior on the General Health of Office Workers. Journal Of Lifestyle Medicine, 7(2), 69-75. doi: 10.15280/jlm.2017.7.2.69Owen, N., Healy, G. N., Matthews, C. E., & Dunstan, D. W. (2010). Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 38(3), 105-13.
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