During childhood and adolescence, most of us are told repeatedly by teachers and parents to ‘sit up straight’. In response, you may have rolled your eyes and straightened up for a moment, before slouching back down again. If this is ringing a bell, it’s likely you’ve experienced some kind of discomfort in your head, neck, back, or shoulders at one point or another.
Our teachers and parents weren’t pestering us simply for the sake of it — poor posture can lead to a range of acute and long term problems. So, how do you know if you’ve got bad posture? In this guide, we take a look at the different types of bad posture and outline how they can be corrected.
Posture: A Definition
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Simply put, posture refers to the position of your body when you’re standing or sitting. It takes into account how your spine is aligned with your head, neck, shoulders, and hips.
Causes Of Poor Posture
Unsurprisingly, posture issues are very common in our modern world. Many of us work at desks that are ill-equipped to properly support our bodies and promote good posture.
Those of us who work from home know all too well how makeshift desks can lead to discomfort and pain. Hours spent sitting on a bar stool hunched over a bench is no one’s idea of comfy.
Our desk set ups shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame. Craning your neck over a phone, carrying a heavy bag, wearing high heels, and carrying some extra weight around your midsection can all lead to bad posture. Anxiety, poor sleep, and inactivity are also contributing factors.
Certain spinal conditions such as scoliosis can also have a significant impact on your posture.
If your posture isn’t aligned, you may experience issues such as head, neck, or back pain, joint strain, and injury. Other symptoms include heartburn, respiratory issues, and stress incontinence.
For a deeper dive into causes and symptoms of poor posture, visit our dedicated blog.
Types Of Posture
Before we unpack the types of posture we want to avoid, let’s consider what a healthy posture looks like.
A healthy posture means your body is correctly aligned. When you’re standing, your ears and shoulders will line up with the vertical midline of your body. When you’re seated, your feet should be flat, your core engaged, and your weight should be evenly distributed between your hips.
Different Types Of Bad Posture
There are actually a few different types of poor posture, each with it’s own unique presentation and symptom profile. The most common types of poor posture are:
Forward Head Posture
This type of poor posture is when your ears are in front of the vertical line of your body. In other words, your head and shoulders are tilted or stooped forward.
With good posture, your ears and shoulders will line up with your vertical midline. The main culprit causing forward head posture? Hunching over devices and slouching at your desk.
You may also experience forward head posture due to the natural process of ageing, as the upper body gradually loses strength.
If you have forward head posture, you may experience headaches, as well as neck pain and stiffness. As you lean forward, you load more ‘head weight’ onto your spine.
Research has outlined how head weight can vary depending on the severity of your forward tilt. If your spine is aligned, your head should weigh around 4 to 5kg. If your head is tilted 15 degrees forward, the weight on the spine increases to 12kg. At 60 degrees forward, it increases to 27kg.
Kyphosis means your shoulders are rounded forward, making your upper back look curved. This is more commonly known as ‘hunchback’.
This can be caused by osteoporosis and ageing in older people, or by certain diseases and infections in younger people.
Kyphosis can cause pain in the head, neck and shoulder area, and can lead to mobility problems in older people.
This posture type means your hips and pelvis are tilted forward in front of your vertical midline.
If you have swayback, your stomach and rear will stick out, exaggerating the inward curve of the spine.
This is most commonly caused by a sedentary lifestyle, as the core muscles that stabilise your back weaken. Obesity and spinal injuries can also cause swayback.
Swayback commonly causes back and neck pain, and can increase your risk of back and hip injuries.
Healthy spines have a natural curve. However, flatback posture means you have lost the normal curve of your lower spine and your back becomes flat. This will usually cause you to lean forward.
With this posture type, you may find it difficult to stand up straight. Flatback can be present at birth or caused by degenerative spine conditions and back surgery.
Flatback often causes leg pain, particularly in the thigh and pelvic region, which can become worse if you are standing for long periods of time.
How To Fix Different Types Of Posture
If you’ve identified with one of the above poor posture types, there are some steps you can take to correct your alignment. These activities can help to reduce any pain or discomfort you may be experiencing as a result of poor posture.
Stretching everyday will help to release the tension in your head, neck, shoulders and back. You don’t need to carve out hours at a time to stretch — simply aim for a few minutes of stretching a couple of times a day. It can help to pop a reminder in your phone at midday, in the afternoon, and in the evening.
Some neck stretches at your desk is a great way to start. When sitting at your desk, simply turn your head slowly from one side to the other, pausing to feel the stretch down the back of your neck before switching to the other side. You can also stand with your arms slightly raised from your sides with your palms facing forward. Flex through the palms and tilt your head to one side, as if trying to touch your shoulder to your ear. You should feel a stretch down the side of your neck. Pause for a moment, then switch to the other side. Repeat these neck stretches a few times during the day.
At lunch time and at the end of your day, opt for the following standing stretch. Clasp your hands behind you and pull them backwards, opening up through your chest and lifting your heart up to the sky. Your chind can be slightly lifted here. This will help to reverse the discomfort from hunching over a computer all day.
Other effective stretches include child’s pose, cat-cow, cobra, and forward fold.
Staying active is integral to good posture and is particularly important if you find yourself seated for the majority of the day.
Activities such as yoga, pilates, and tai chi will be particularly helpful for stretching and lengthening the body. These mindful forms of movement will help you focus on your body and how it’s positioned.
If you enjoy walking, ensure you’re paying attention to your posture. Roll your shoulders up and back, and keep your gaze forward rather than down at your feet. It’s also important to engage your core while walking. To engage your core, follow the below steps.
- Draw your pelvic floor upwards.
- Keeping your pelvic flaw drawn up, switch on your transverse muscles (the muscles just inside of your hip bones). Engage them by imagining they are two doors closing together.
- Keeping your pelvic floor up and transverse on, draw your stomach in by imagining you are pulling your belly button back towards your spine.
- Keeping your pelvic floor up, transverse on, and belly button back, complete the core engagement by imagining you are pulling your ribs down towards your hips.
This can take some getting used to. It may help to practise core engagement when lying down or sitting cross legged on a cushion.
Implement A Good Desk Setup
One of the best things you can do for your posture is implement a good desk set up. This should involve an ergonomic chair, elevating your computer slightly so that it’s at eye-level, and ensuring your elbows rest comfortably at a 90 degree angle from your body.
Keep your shoulders relaxed. To avoid slouching, hunching, or protruding your chest forward, roll your shoulder up and back a few times during the day. This will help to reset your alignment. It’s also a good idea to avoid holding a phone between your ear and shoulder, as this crunching position can lead to neck stiffness and pain. Opt for a headset instead.
Ensure that your back is straight against the chair. If there’s a gap between the chair and your lower back, pop a cushion or rolled up towel there to make sure it’s supported.
Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest instead of crossing your legs. Your thighs and hips should be parallel to the floor.
Be sure to take pauses to stretch or walk around during the day. This is when you can take a moment to practice the gentle neck stretches mentioned above.
If you spend a lot of time lifting heavy objects at work, ensure you are bending at the knees to protect your back.
Pay Attention To How You Stand
When standing — whether you’re in line somewhere or just chopping vegetables for dinner — avoid leaning heavily into one hip. Take note of how you stand during these moments, and go through the below checklist:
- Keep shoulders down and back
- Engage your core
- Keep your weight evenly distributed across both feet, focusing your weight on the balls of the feet
- Keep your head level
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
- Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides
- When looking at your phone, elevate it slightly so it’s closer to your eye level
Visit A Chiropractor For An Assessment
If you’re in any kind of pain or discomfort as a result of your posture, it’s a good idea to receive a proper assessment.
A chiropractor can help to fix poor posture by outlining a tailored treatment plan for your specific posture type. Your initial consult will include a postural assessment, case history, and flexibility tests to determine the best course of action. Your treatment plan may involve adjustments and soft tissue massage, as well as an exercise plan that you can follow at home.
Get in touch with us to book your initial consultation so you can get back to doing the things you love, pain-free.