The Link between Proper Posture and Overall Health
For those who are tired, out of breath, or suffering from neck, shoulder, or back pain—your posture may be to blame.
Some things your mother told you aren’t necessarily true. For example, it isn’t essential to wait an hour between eating and swimming. But on one important point, your mother was right—you really do need to stand up straight!
On a mental level, poor posture projects an image of low self-esteem, depression, and fatigue. From a physiological perspective, a misaligned postural pattern can do some pretty serious damage to your overall health.
Let’s take a look at how incorrect posture can affect three key areas of health: energy, breathing, and pain in the neck, shoulders, and back. It’s important to keep in mind that all of these factors are working in harmony (or, in some cases, disharmony) with each other.
• Energy: The link between posture and energy levels is not immediately intuitive; it’s hard to see just how poor posture could possibly affect something so seemingly unrelated. But think about it- if your head weighs ten pounds, the load on your spinal tissues is ten pounds, right? However, if your head has moved forward due to incorrect posture, that load is increased by a factor of ten with each additional inch. So, if you are carrying your head just two inches forward from its proper position, your head is loading 30 pounds to the supporting tissues, 40 pounds if your head is three inches forward, and so on. This additional pressure is being stressed through your neck and shoulders. It’s pretty obvious that someone carrying even ten pounds of additional weight will have less energy, and that fatigue can become a serious problem.
• Breathing: Did you know that the muscles that assist in good posture also function in the act of breathing? Neither your ribs nor your lungs can draw in a single breath without help. The chest is powered by the muscles sandwiched between the ribs in partnership with the diaphragm, which stretches along the bottom of the ribcage. Effective posture produces the largest intake of oxygen for each breath while investing the least amount of energy. Without correct posture, the muscles across the front of the chest grow short and tight while the muscles across the back become overstretched and useless; eventually, this leads to a wearing-down of spinal discs and vertebrae. What begins as a bad habit involving the muscles eventually becomes a crisis for the bones and joints.
According to Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize for Brain Research in 1980, “The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.”
• Pain in the neck, shoulders, and back: As previously stated, incorrect posture can lead to excessive pressure on the spine in the act of supporting the head. Other issues involve neck pain that is caused by pressure on the nerves which, in turn, creates inflammation in that area. In the neck, it is ideal to have a well defined neck C-curve. Ideally, this curve should be the shape of an arc or part of a circle. This enables the spinal cord and nerves to function properly. When there is any loss of that normal curvature in the neck, there will be pressure on the nervous system. This pressure can cause pain in the neck and shoulders and, over time, this pressure will degenerate your health.
Back pain can also be caused by poor posture. When the spine is not in proper alignment, the muscles, ligaments, and spinal joints are all under additional stress. Additionally, the cushioning, shock absorbing discs that are between the vertebrae can become overly stressed and subject to injury.
To make matters worse, poor posture can eventually lead to degeneration and arthritis in the spine. Arthritis can be defined as inflammation and swelling in the joints of the skeletal system. This low grade inflammation of the joints can cause degeneration of the joint space and can break down the integrity of the bone around the joint. The result is often pain and limited activity.
Let’s take a look at some statistics surrounding arthritis*:
• An estimated 46 million adults in the U.S. are affected by arthritis. This painful condition is the nation’s most common cause of disability.
• In 2003 alone, the total cost of arthritis was $128 billion, including $81 billion in direct medical costs and $47 billion in lost earnings.
• Each year, arthritis results in 992,100 hospitalizations and 44 million outpatient visits.
• Decreased activity may result in other medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Every day, our highly trained team of licensed New Jersey Rehabilitation professionals treats postural issues and the many forms of arthritis caused by such issues. Structural rehabilitation, including advanced chiropractic techniques and functional rehabilitation through physical therapy, are used collaboratively to design a program to treat or prevent the various problems associated with incorrect posture and arthritis.
Contact us immediately if you are interested in a complimentary consultation to see whether we can help you with your posture.
*Statistics taken from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Arthritis. Meeting the Challenge: At A Glance 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/arthritis.htm