Your Posture May Be Influencing These Aspects of Your Overall Health
We all have memories of being told off for slouching in our childhood, but there’s a reason why we were instructed to sit up straight or stand appropriately – good posture can be the difference between good health and a long list of concerns and complaints later in life.
So, what is good posture? The short answer is to be standing upright, with your spine rigid and head up, eyes forward. If seated, attempt to replicate this position from the waist up – back unyielding, without leaning too far back of forward and curving the spine. If you can balance a book on your head, your posture is perfect!
Failing to follow these instructions and allowing your posture to slump is not just unsightly; it could have all kinds of negative impacts on your general health, as well as leading to the requirement of professional intervention from an osteopath or similar healthcare professional. Obviously here at phyxMe Physical Therapy we are always prepared to assist with that, but we would always advise you to watch the manner in which you carry yourself before medical intervention becomes a requirement!
Here are five examples of the impact that posture can have on your physical and emotional wellbeing, and how maintaining an optimum spinal structure will greatly benefit your overall health.
Did you know that good posture is intrinsically linked to good mental health and a positive frame of mind? Several studies have suggested that slouched and slumped shoulders are not just a result of depression and anxiety – they could also be a root cause. Taking up an appropriate posture, with your back straight and head up, will improve your lateral thinking and empower you psychologically. You will feel more enthusiastic about a task or problem that you may be facing, and ready to take on the world.
This decrease in physical or mental fatigue is thanks to messages fed to the brain by your body that you are prepared to actively engage with anything that requires a reaction – messages forged by a faster heartbeat. If you are seated or stood in a less dominant position, your organs and brain will take on the same sense of passivity.
What’s more, your mind will also play a game of association. If you associate sensations of exhaustion, anxiety and stress with slumping lower into your seat or slouching your shoulders, your brain will assume that’s how you must be feeling right now and release the relevant hormones. Ultimately, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Breathing and Respiratory Function
Posture can have a huge impact on the ability of your respiratory system to take oxygen into the lungs. Adopting a poor or incorrect posture can lead to shallower breaths, and shallow breathing means that a steady supply of oxygen cannot make its way into your lungs – which, naturally, leads to poor levels of energy. Maintain this poor quality of breathing up for long enough and the impact will be irreversible, potentially leading to chronic problems with catching your breath later in life.
Leaning to the left or right is a major cause of shallow breathing related to posture. Stand on one leg for a few seconds and compare your breaths to those you take when you apply an equal distribution of weight over both feet – you will notice a very clear difference. Likewise, slouching and bending restricts the access that your lungs have to fill with air. Imagine trying to blow up a balloon while a hardcover book is resting on top of it – you wouldn’t get very far.
Next time you are seated, straighten up your spine and keep a deep breath. You’ll find that your head clears, and you’ll feel immeasurably better for it. Just once is not enough, though; make this your default posture whenever seated. Likewise, catch yourself in the act of leaning to the left or right, leading with your shoulder. Restore yourself to complete vertical status and drink in those deep lungfuls of air!
Are you plagued with toothache, lockjaw or other dental hygiene problems? This could be down to the posture of your jawbone, which is connected to your spine and shoulders – it’s all part of a skeletal chain. If you slump your shoulders, your head will automatically roll forward, or if you sit too far back in a chair and allow your neck to fall backward your head will fall back. The result of this is will be your teeth connecting in an unnatural position, and potentially grinding against each other – which can cause all kinds of discomfort.
Carrying your mouth too tightly is a similar issue that can be caused by poor posture. If you have a tendency to clench your teeth and set your jaw, try housing your tongue in the roof of your mouth while your mouth is passive. Coupled with maintaining a straight spine and neck, this will ensure that your teeth and bite do not end up misaligned. While practicing good posture, also be sure to keep your jawbone straight and pointed forward while your neck is upright.
Issues with the Digestive System
Your digestive tract is yet another key internal system that relies upon a quality posture in order to function at maximum capacity. If you are seated in a poor position, you will be crunching your intestines – and, once again, you are restricting access to an essential element of the human body, making it difficult for your acids contained in your stomach to break food down and pass it along to the colon.
Yes, if you maintain a poor posture you are folding your intestines over and slowing down your body’s digestive process – with constipation just one of the side effects that could follow as a result. Bad posture is also to blame for a great many physical discomforts such as bloating and stomach cramp, all due to the fact that your internal organs do not have the appropriate space to do their work.
Stop bunching your stomach muscles up by slouching – sit upright and proud and you’ll find that you feel significantly less uncomfortable after meals. This will be even more rewarding if you are able to stand and stretch those all-important back muscles afterward.
Problems with Circulation
Your circulation will also take a hit by slumping and slouching. Much like your lungs will struggle will fill with air when pathways are blocked, your heart will not be able to pump blood accurately and steadily throughout your body when restrictions are placed upon its route thanks to an unhelpful body shape.
The outcome of this could be difficulty in maintaining a comfortable temperature, and all kinds of unpleasant side effects such as inflammation and aching joints. What’s more, a lack of steady blood flow will have a negative impact on your immune system and leave you susceptible to health complaints such as the common cold.
A good, steady circulation will give you a vibrant, healthy nervous system which ensures that you will stay active and vibrant in your day-to-day activities; all of which will compliment a fine posture, enabling you to walk firmly and proudly with your head held high and your spine straight. This, in turn, will keep your circulation flowing – which is essential, as poor circulation also brings us back to the mental health aspect of poor posture that we have previously discussed.
If we are not experiencing a steady and consistent flow of blood throughout the body and brain, anxiety and depression can quickly follow. That, in turn, can cause you to slump your shoulders as though they carry the weight of the world upon them. Before you know it, the cycle begins all over again and we are back to square one. Keep that posture upright – more depends upon it than you may have initially realized!
By now, you should have an idea of just how important a good posture can be – it wasn’t just something that authority figures enjoyed yelling at you about simply because they could. The discussions above have not even factored in the general aches and pains that you could experience in your back, neck and shoulders by neglecting to utilize an appropriate posture.
Remember, always stand tall and keep your entire body in a vertical line – shoulders straight and head held high – and avoid slouching forward whenever you are seated. Following such basic golden rules is key to a long, healthy and happy life- and one that is free of wholly avoidable discomfort.