Are you battling with aches and pains? Do you wake up feeling stiff and sore? If so, it could be that you are sleeping in the wrong position. Do they get worse as the day progresses? Again, this could be a symptom of bad posture.
Do a quick posture check for yourself. Let’s start with the way that you are reading this. And we don’t mean with your eyes. If you are like most people, you are probably bending your neck to see the page/ screen. That’s mistake number one. You are holding your neck in an unnatural position.
And, considering how long this article is, that’s not doing you any good at all. Now check your back position. Is your back properly supported and relatively straight? Or have you slumped back in your chair, or even on your bed, because it feels more comfortable to do so?
Don’t feel alone; 54% of Americans said that they suffered from back or neck pain in 2017. In many of these instances, the problem could be traced back to a single issue – bad posture.
The word “posture” is from the Latin verb “ponere” that means ‘to put’ or ‘to place.’ So, basically, posture relates to keeping in place. The official definition is “Posture is the result of coordinated actions of different muscles that work together to maintain stability,” or, to put it simply, as the position in which you hold the body while sitting or standing.
There are two types of posture:
Inactive or static postures- These are the postures which are adopted while sleeping or resting. The body is relatively static during this time. The position is maintained by the body through the coordination of the muscle groups. This is necessary to counteract the effects of gravity. Some examples of static posture include lying, kneeling, sitting and standing.
Active or dynamic postures- In this type, the body is in motion. The integrated action of different muscles is required to maintain active postures. The non-contractile structures and muscles have to work to adapt to changing circumstances. Examples include jumping, walking, lifting, throwing and running.
So, poor posture can lead to back and neck issues. That’s bad enough, but it can also lead to a range of different problems throughout the body. It affects everything, from your breathing to your feet. Yes, you read that correctly. Bad posture is simply bad for your health.
So, what is bad posture?
Bad posture is a result of a musculoskeletal distortion in your neck or lower and upper back. A lot of people think that poor posture is just about slumping, but that is not necessarily the case. Posture is about keeping your body at its optimal alignment.
How do you know that you have bad posture habits? Some of the common signs include rounded shoulders, a chin that juts out, and a pot belly. A pot belly places a lot of strain on the lower back area and indicates that the core muscles in the abdomen are flabby.
This places further strain on the back because the core muscles are not doing as much work as they should. This leads to back pain. Postural neck issues and rounded shoulders result from the excessive anterior curve of the thoracic and cervical spine.
A good posture in standing position from the side looks like this:
Try copying it. Stand up straight, with your shoulders relaxed. Keep your head directly over your neck and keep the neck straight. Pull in your tummy and tuck in your pelvis.
Now let’s have a look at bad posture and see what the difference is.
Can you see the difference? The head is not lined up properly, and his whole center of gravity is facing forward. This is going to lead to problems later on.
Again, you can clearly see that the center of gravity has been thrown off.
Here are some more examples of faulty postures:
A Swayed back position
A rounded back with a head in the forward position
Flat back posture
Flat neck and upper back posture
How can bad posture affect my health?
Okay, so bad posture is going to cause pain, but can it really cause health issues? Let’s get serious for a minute here. When your posture is bad, you can expect the following kinds of issues:
Misalignment of your musculoskeletal system
Breathing difficulty because of the misalignment
Increasing risk of falling because your center of gravity is not correct
Wearing out of the spine, making it prone to injuries
Difficulty with food digestion because of the misalignment
Shoulder, back and neck pain
Referred pain – say, for example, that bad posture has caused you to geta pinched nerve in the neck. You could feel pain in the neck or anywhere along that nerve in the arm or leg as well.
Headaches because of the unnatural positions of the muscles causing tension
High blood pressure because your system has to work harder thanks to the misalignment
Problems with the reproductive system
A bigger belly
Increased mortality rate
Causes of bad posture- What causes you to slouch?
Have you ever given a thought as to what is it that causes you to develop that poor posture? The causes differ from one person to another. It could just be a bad habit that you have picked up. Perhaps your computer is at the wrong height on your desk, or perhaps you are tall and feel self-conscious about it, so you stoop.
There are many different reasons that we start to adopt bad postures. The problem is that these behaviors fast become habits.
Here are some of the other potential causes:
Muscle imbalances - The muscle groups, such as the abdominal and back muscles, need to balance one another in strength. If the abdominals are tense and stronger than the back muscles, the rounding of the back is more likely to take place. On the other hand, if the back muscles are stronger than the abdominals, your lower back may pull too far forward, leading to a protruding stomach.
Heredity - This is not something that you can cure, like scoliosis or abnormal spine curvature. Deformities, diseases from birth and uneven limbs can result in bad posture.
Muscle weakness and tension - When you are injured and your muscles are weak, it becomes more difficult for you to use them properly. The result is that the other muscles have to work harder to compensate. Muscle weakness or even excessive strength can lead to postural problems because it throws off your body’s balance.
Use of technology - Your usage of devices like computers, laptops, or phones can definitely cause your body to get out of alignment. “Text neck” is an informal term for a condition in which your neck is placed in flexion or is constantly bending forward to read texts. This condition may result in severe pain over time.
Excess weight - Just like muscle imbalances, excess weight on the body can cause various lower back issues because the heavy, larger midsection can pull lumbar area of the spine towards the front.
Injury - Any form of injury that makes you move differently may result in bad posture. For example, if you broke a bone in the foot and started walking differently, this could be an issue for you.
Repetitive motions/movements - Hunching over the steering wheel while driving or leaning forward towards your computer screen for hours may result in an incorrectly curved spine.
Shoes - The shoes you wear could be another reason for incorrect posture. High heels throw the center of gravity forward, resulting in an unnatural posture. The way your feet hit the ground also makes a difference. If you see evidence of the soles of your shoes wearing unevenly, it means your stride is uneven, and this could mean issues with your posture.
Effects of poor posture - Can bad posture cause pain in ribs? Or can bad posture affect digestion? Let’s discuss some of the effects of bad posture below.
Soreness and Pain
Your body was not made to slouch. By slouching often, you are causing the muscles to work harder. Over time, this will translate to chronic pain that will eventually become impossible to treat. In most cases, the cause of back or neck pain can be traced to bad posture habits.
Poor Blood Circulation
When the body is placed in an unnatural position, it restricts the circulation of the blood through the body.
Headaches and Jaw Pains
The tension created in the muscles when you are hunched over can be pretty severe. Holding this position for longer periods of time will result in chronic pain. The constant tension in the muscles of the shoulder and neck can result in headaches.
It could also cause problems with the jaw – when we are tense, we tend to clench our jaws as well. The tension in your body could be misinterpreted as a sign that something is wrong, potentially leading you to clench your jaw. This too could lead to headaches, etc.
This is something that people find strange. How could bad posture lead to aching feet? Because as your center of gravity changes due to incorrect posture, you change the areas of your feet that are under pressure. This could lead to foot pain.
A lot of people think that neck and upper back pain are all that results from bad posture. But the fact is that there is a lot more going on than just rolling your shoulders forward. Remember that song you learned as a child, “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, and so on”.
Anything that you do that affects the spine in one area has an impact on your whole spine. In this case, slouching has the knock-on effect of flattening out the lumbar region of the spine. Say hello to lower back pain.
Slouching has been found to cause digestive problems like constipation, hernias and acid reflux. As you are slouched over, your intestines get crunched up, and this can slow down everything. It can also produce more pressure on the digestive tract, increasing the chances of acid reflux.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As the nerves in the upper back and neck area control muscle functioning in your wrists, arms, and hands, the wrong posture can affect these and even cause carpal tunnel syndrome. The muscles can get tight and start tingling, ache or even become numb.
Increased Chances of Cardiovascular Issues
Researchers have found a correlation between poor posture and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you are sedentary for most of the day, you are increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease by 147%. Bad posture only exacerbates the issue.
One of the most significant negative effects we experience because of poor posture is the change in the spinal curve. Your spine has a natural curve or shape. But if you spend years and years sitting or standing in a wrong position, your spine is put under a lot of pressure.
As the spine starts to straighten out, the muscles surrounding it are pulled into unnatural positions, causing severe pain. Because the spine is not in the correct position, wear and tear on some of the discs and vertebrae is more pronounced, leading to faster degeneration.
The worst consequence, however, is that the spine becomes less able to absorb shocks, like the impact from walking.
Guide to a good posture- How do you get that perfect posture?
Maintaining good posture involves training the body to sit, stand, walk and even lie in positions in which there is the least amount of strain on the supporting ligaments and muscles. It is about keeping the body aligned as nature intended.
This is harder for us to do when we spend hours sitting every day. Your body was never made for this – it was made to move.
What can correct posture do for you?
It keeps the joints and bones in alignment so that the muscles can function properly
Prevents overuse or strain issues
Prevents muscular pain and backaches
Helps reduce the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that can even lead to arthritis
Prevents fatigue and tiredness as the muscles are used more efficiently, permitting the body to use less energy
Reduces the stress on ligaments, thus holding the joints of the spine intact
Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions
What exercises improve posture?
The chin tuck exercise can help you to reverse a forward head posture by strengthening your neck muscles. This can be done while standing or sitting. You need to start with your shoulders rolled back with your arms by your side. While looking straight, place 2 fingers on the chin, tuck the chin slightly and move the head forward and down. Hold in here for 3 to 5 seconds and release. Repeat this 10 times.
Hip Flexor Stretch
For this, you need to kneel down on your right knee and stretch your left foot on the ground in front of you. Place both hands on your left thigh and press the hips forward until you feel a nice stretch in your hip flexors. Then contract the abdominals and tilt the pelvis slightly towards the back while keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Hold it for 20-30 seconds, switch sides and repeat.
This particular exercise helps to strengthen muscles of your upper back, especially the muscles that are between your shoulder blades. You will need a resistance band for this exercise.
Sit up straight on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Place the center of a resistance band around the sole of the feet and cross one side over the other in order to form an “X” position. Grasp the ends of the resistance band with your arms extended out to the front. Then pull the ends of the resistance band towards your hips, bending the elbows so that they point backward. Hold it there and return slowly. Do 8-12 reps for 3 sets.
Yoga is a form of exercise that can be simple to learn and that will really help to correct your posture. Yoga also helps to improve your balance and strengthens your core muscles, thus helping you to maintain the right body alignment. Doing yoga even helps you to hold the erect posture while you are walking, sitting or standing.
What are back braces? Have you heard of them before?
A back brace is a device that is designed to restrict the motion of your spine in case of fracture or to help support post-operative fusions. It is also used as a preventive measure against some progressive conditions such as scoliosis.
Some common back braces include:
Soft braces- These are elastic braces that restrict the forward motion of your spine and aid in setting spinal fusions.
Hard or rigid braces- These braces are the form-fitting plastic molds which limit the motion by around 50%.
Corset braces- These are generally made from soft materials, such as cloth and so they provide support for the lower and middle back. These are recommended mostly after spinal fusion surgery to restrict the motion and promote correct posture.
Occupational braces- These types of braces are used during strenuous activities and heavy lifts to prevent the injuries linked with bad posture. Lifting belts and lower back braces are common types of occupational braces that are often used in the workplace to avoid injuries.
Sacroiliac belt- This brace is used for stabilizing the sacroiliac joint. This joint is in the lower back at the point where the sacrum and pelvis meet. The brace compresses the sacroiliac joint in order to stabilize it, relieve pain and promote correct posture. The belt easily wraps around the hips and is made of elastic materials, allowing it to mold to the body’s shape.
Why use back braces?
Wearing the brace as directed by your physician may offer you relief, prevent future posture problems and promote healing.
They help to:
Stabilize your areas of weakness after the surgery
Act as a non-invasive treatment or as an alternative to surgeries
Immobilize the injured regions and help in the recovery
Lessen pressure on the spine while lifting heavy objects
Improve the posture and elongate your spine
Alleviate back pain
Make transitional movements, like standing up or sitting down more comfortably
Benefits of Back Braces
There are several benefits to wearing a back brace. We have listed the most important of these below:
The lumbar support braces can help to reduce the pain after an injury on the lower back. These braces are easily accessible and can also be bought from any sporting goods store. Much like other braces, these limit the movement of the spine and lower back region. This provides the back an opportunity to heal and even offers great pain relief.
A lot of users claim that the lumbar brace supports the abdomen and corrects posture
When used just after the surgery, these braces can help to improve spine stabilization
The braces can make it comfortable to change your position from standing to sitting
If you are in a labor-intensive job which places a good amount of stress on the lower back, the brace may allow you to return to your work earlier than before
Do posture braces work? If yes, how?
Posture correctors or back braces counteract the tendency to round the shoulders or to hunch. As we sit in a position with our shoulders scooped forward for a long span of time, our soft muscle tissues become somewhat tight across the chest. Your back becomes rounded, and the shoulders move forward. So, when you wear a posture brace, the muscles are pulled back to their natural position. Wearing the braces for just 15 to 20 minutes daily can help you to alleviate the muscles and get your back muscles back on track.
Best Posture Correctors To Align and Straighten Your Back, Shoulder, and Spine With The Least Effort And Fastest Results
A lot of users say that these posture correctors provide gentle support to fix their posture issues. Whether it is to unroll the compressed shoulder, pull up the sagging mid back or snap you out of a slouch, these correctors are highly useful.
They work by creating muscle memory. It’s like when you remember to suck in your gut. If you do that often enough, the body will automatically suck it in, even when you are not consciously thinking about it. Wearing the corrector helps your muscles to properly align themselves.
These correctors fit over the shoulders and under the armpits. They can be easily adjusted to get an exact fit. We recommend starting off slowly – say with using the brace for twenty minutes at first, then taking a break for a few hours and putting it on again for another 20 minutes.
You can then gradually increase the time to one to two hours a day. We do not recommend sleeping in them, though.
If you do have serious posture issues, you should consult your doctor or chiropractor before you buy one of these devices. A great quality brace will help you to correct issues but should not cause you a lot of pain. If it does, it might be wrong for you.
A quality posture brace will have the following features:
Functionality – A quality posture brace will help you to spend your day normally. It will not get in the way of normal activities. You can work in your office, walk, run, cook and do almost anything that you do daily.
Comfort – The brace you buy should be comfortable. Most of the devices will take some time to get used to it, but if they are hurting you badly, there is something wrong.
This brace helps you to stand or sit up straight and look great. One of the benefits of great posture is that it helps you to look a little thinner – you stand taller and straighter, and this makes you look leaner.
But the main benefit is that this device will help to correct slouching. It gently and effectively pulls back your shoulders so that the rounding effect is corrected. This, in turn, ensures that the muscles of the back are also in a good position.
Best for posture training
Correct spine alignment
Breathable, soft material
Figure 8 design
Internal magnets to help correct disrupted electromagnetic fields
The advantage of this posture corrector is that it helps to correct hunched shoulders naturally. There will be a little discomfort to start off with, but that is only natural. What makes this model different from most is that it has a lot of padding to ensure maximum comfort.
This model features not only the shoulder brace, but also extends further down the spine. It has a strap around the belly, and this lends extra support to the lower back.
It can be adjusted to fit you exactly and can remain your little secret – no one will be able to see it under your clothes. Wear it to work or at home – the choice is yours. It is a figure eight corrector, so there is no need to be concerned about straps showing.
The fasteners are high quality, ensuring that the corrector is not going to shift all day. The material is light and breathable, improving your comfort while wearing it. This and the fact that it won’t shift during the day make it highly comfortable to wear.
The company offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. The brace gently corrects thoracic and cervical conditions and provides proper spine alignment. Use it while poring over those reports at work or while vegging out on the couch when you get home.
You can see below exactly how it should be strapped on.
Posture Corrector by Primate
This is another popular corrector. This comfortable, universal posture brace for both men and women will help you to enjoy the right posture and get rid of all sorts of pain, back pain included. This posture support is made up of a high-quality breathable fabric and helps to correct posture.
The Primate back straightener brace has a slightly different shape from the previous one. It does not have the strap around the lower back and belly, so it does not provide quite as much support. It also does not have the magnets in it.
It is effective at correcting the posture of the shoulders and is comfortable to wear. It is good at correcting minor postural issues. If you also suffer from lower back pain, the Easy Posture-Corrective Therapy Back Brace is the better option for you.
This one is simply slipped over the shoulders and adjusted as necessary.
How long to use braces for?
There are many braces that help you to correct your posture while they help you to strengthen the muscles of your upper back. These devices pull your shoulders towards the back, and this forces you to adopt a more natural posture.
This leads to stronger back muscles, meaning that the need to wear such devices decreases over time. Some manufacturers claim that they need to be used for as little as 10 minutes every day. Others claim a life free of pain in just 30 minutes of usage per day.
Start off slowly and work your way up to wearing it for longer. See if you can notice results. The main thing here is consistency rather than length of wear. Wearing it for an hour every day is a lot more effective than wearing it for eight hours once a week.
Once your body starts to naturally adopt the position when you are not wearing the brace, you can start to reduce how long you wear it for.
How to figure out if a brace is not for you?
It is very important to know if a particular brace is suitable for your condition or not. Using unsuitable or incorrect braces can cause you a lot of trouble. You risk doing more damage to your neck and back if you choose the wrong back brace.
So, if you have pain in the lumbar region, stick to a brace that supports this region. If you have trouble with rounded shoulders, make sure that you use a posture corrector.
If you have been diagnosed with scoliosis, an unwanted curve or a straight spine, you need to find and buy a brace that is specially designed to help with that particular issue.
The right back brace will provide the support that you need when you actually need it. It will help restrict movement to promote healing and provide support to help with pain relief.
When using a corrector, make sure that it is comfortable for you. There is bound to be some initial discomfort when you start out, but this should resolve itself pretty quickly. You should not, however, be in so much pain that you cannot go about your day as usual.
Is it safe to sleep in a back brace?
No, not at all! Back braces are there to manage pain and help you hold yourself upright. Wearing a brace all the time would be extremely uncomfortable. Wearing it while you are sleeping would hold your body in an unnatural position.
Your body would not be able to move naturally throughout the night and this could cause serious issues for you.
How can I sleep without the brace?
Now that you have got an idea about the types of braces that you can use easily, let’s take a look at some tips on how you can get a good night’s sleep without your brace.
Sleep on the right bed
Your bed may feel comfortable, but is it supportive enough for your body? Your goal is to keep your spine as well aligned as possible. To do this, you need to make sure that your mattress offers the right support for you, no matter what position you sleep in.
If you are heavier, you will need a firmer mattress. If you sleep on your side, you might need something that has a little give in it.
Use the right pillow
Of course, it is not going to do too much good to have a very supportive mattress if your pillow is wrong for you. Again, the right type of pillow will depend on the position that you sleep in. Side sleepers will need to use a pillow with a higher loft to ensure that their neck stays aligned with their spine.
Back or stomach sleepers need a thinner pillow so that their necks are not held up in an unnatural position.
Use a log roll
When getting in the bed, roll into your bed to reduce the strain on your back. Simply sit, lift your feet up and then roll into your bed.
Lift your leg/ legs with a pillow
If you are a side sleeper, get yourself a reasonably thin pillow and place it between your knees when you are sleeping. If you are a back sleeper, place the pillow underneath your knees to raise them a little. Both positions will help to ease the pressure on your back while you are sleeping.
Other Products that Might Help with Bad Posture
Apart from posture braces, there are other products on the market that help with correcting your bad posture. These include posture shirts and posture bras.
One of the ways to retrain your muscles and realign them is by wearing a posture shirt. The best shirts have elastic bands and are made to guide the body to stay in an upright position. They accomplish this by compressing various muscles.
Posture correcting shirts are used mainly by athletes to improve their sports performance. These shirts are especially popular with golfers and pitchers. Often chiropractors recommend these types of shirts to those who suffer from shoulder, neck or back pains. There are many posture performance shirts available on the market. You can read the customer reviews and make your choice accordingly.
Now you have a much better understanding of how important good posture is and how it can impact your health. You also know what you can do to help you unlearn bad posture habits. You can make a conscious effort to improve your posture or do exercises that help you do the same thing.
If you want faster results, a posture corrector can be extremely helpful in retraining the muscles. Simply wear one for a short time each day, and your muscles will learn to stay in position, even when you are not wearing it.
The key is to choose the option that best suits your needs and to use it consistently. It won’t be too long before you start to see positive changes.