This just in… slouching is bad for you. Whether you are sitting or standing, slouching can do one or all of the following:
1. Injure vertebral discs in the neck, mid and lower back.
2. Decrease blood flow to the extremities of the body and, therefore, cause arm, hand or leg pain.
3. Make you look older.
4. Make you look tired and less confident.
5. Decrease the ability of your lungs to take in air properly and, therefore, make you more fatigued.
6. Cause headaches
7. Cause poor digestion
8. Affect your mood and can lead to depression
9. Cause a mid-back burning sensation
10. Cause neck and back pain
Improving your posture is no easy task. I am constantly trying to work on mine. My job is such that I spend most of my day hunched over a person on a treatment table and, when I am not doing that, I am hunched over a computer – writing about being hunched over a treatment table. Lots of hunching going on. And, in fact, most jobs these days involve a lot of sitting (either driving or at a desk) or standing in one place looking down for prolonged periods of time (such as grocery store employees or assembly line workers). As I said, lots of hunching going on.
People commonly get frustrated (myself included) when they are trying to correct their posture because, like most habits, the slouching is difficult to stop. Perhaps a discussion on why we slouch might shed some light on the issue and make it easier to kick the bad habit.
Slouching occurs for one or more of the following reasons:
Weak back muscles
Tight chest muscles
Tight hamstring muscles
Tight thoracic spine
Poor ergonomic set up
Poor seat/chair form (think about the bucket seats in older cars)
I created the Pain Free at Work DVD to show people what to do about the muscle imbalances, tight thoracic spine and ergonomic issues that can negatively affect posture. There are exercises, stretches and educational information in the DVD that will help beat the poor posture blues.
Poor hearing and poor vision are two additional factors that are common and yet, commonly overlooked. If you cannot see the street signs or the words on your monitor clearly, chances are you will lean in and slouch forward in order to see what is in front of you. Having a regular eye exam is important. I also recommend decreasing any glare coming from behind your monitor to improve your vision.
Poor hearing is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Here is a little known fact about me – and one I will now proudly share – I wear hearing aids. I’ve been wearing them consistently now for several years and I can tell you that it has helped my posture enormously. I was born with a low-tone frequency hearing loss that I ignored for most of my life. I finally took action because it was forcing me to strain forward to hear my patients as they laid on my treatment table. If you suspect a vision or hearing problem affecting the way you work, don’t delay and take the necessary actions to correct the problem. Straining to hear or see throughout your day will cause you to slouch and we all know how bad for you that is.