Many of us are guilty of slouching at our desks or stooping over our phones, habits which can slowly but surely lead to poor posture. Bad posture can cause a number of health problems, from neck pain and hunching to headaches and joint stiffness. Other inevitable factors such as ageing can impact our posture. But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are a number of exercises and treatments that can correct bad posture and help you lead a pain-free life. That’s where chiropractors come in. So, can chiropractors actually fix bad posture? The short answer is yes. Below, we break down everything you need to know about posture and how chiropractic treatment can help you.
What Causes Bad Posture?
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There are two forms of posture: static and dynamic posture. Static posture refers to your body’s position when you’re sitting, laying down, and resting. Dynamic posture refers to your body’s alignment when you’re moving, including how you walk, run, and bend.
As we move through life, many of us develop habits that can lead to bad posture. Bad habits often include:
- Slouching – This is a common habit that often develops in those of us who work at jobs that require us to sit in front of a computer for the majority of the day. You may find yourself slouching over your laptop because it feels more comfortable than sitting up straight, but in the long run, this habit can lead to more discomfort.
- Inactivity – Living a sedentary lifestyle means you aren’t stretching out your body properly, which can cause stooping and pain over time.
- Hunching – Most of us spend a significant amount of time looking down at devices. Stooping your neck can lead to poor posture and pain, especially given you’re likely hunching over a screen multiple times a day.
- Poor sleep – The way we sleep can have a serious impact on our posture. You may be sleeping in the wrong position due to an insufficient pillow or restlessness, which can cause problems in your neck, shoulders, and back.
- Anxiety and stress – When we feel anxious, the muscles in our bodies tighten, which means they can’t properly support the spine and help it to sit in a vertical position.
- Shoes – Regularly wearing ill-fitting or high-heeled shoes can cause your pelvis to tilt forward, which can affect your posture.
- Weight – Being overweight, particularly in your middle, can lead to poor posture as your body tries to balance the weight by pushing your pelvis forward.
In addition to these habitual causes, the inevitable process of ageing can lead to poor posture. As we get older, our bodies naturally begin to hunch and stoop, which can lead to pain and other health issues.
How Does Poor Posture Affect The Body?
Symptoms of bad posture usually creep up slowly over time. Common symptoms of poor posture include:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain or rounded shoulders
- Body aches and muscle fatigue
- Joint stiffness
- Respiratory issues
- Your head may tilt forward or backward
- Discomfort while exercising
Bad posture can also affect the gastrointestinal system and lead to:
- Stress incontinence – When you slouch, you put pressure on your abdomen, which in turn puts pressure on the bladder. A slouching position makes it difficult for the pelvic floor muscles to push against that pressure, which can lead to light bladder leakage when you laugh or cough.
- Heartburn and indigestion – If you slouch after you eat, pressure on the abdomen may force stomach acid up the wrong way and trigger heartburn symptoms.
How Does Posture Affect Balance?
Good posture is important for your balance. With a healthy posture, your weight will be centred over your feet when you stand. Essentially, when your body is correctly aligned and your weight is correctly distributed over your feet, your balance improves. Balance comes into play during everyday activities such as walking up and down stairs, turning around, and standing up from a seated position.
Balance and posture are also important to help you maintain the correct form when exercising or playing sports. Having good posture, and therefore good balance, can help to prevent injury when engaging in exercise.
How Does Poor Posture Exacerbate Increased Muscle Tension And Tone?
If your body is out of alignment due to poor posture, your muscles will need to work harder to contract in order to keep your body stable. This adds tension to the muscles and ultimately weakens them.
Additionally, depending on the type of posture you have, the uneven distribution of weight can add tension to certain muscles. A common form of bad posture is called ‘forward head’ posture, where the head and shoulders tilt forward, jutting out from the vertical midline of your body. When this happens, the muscles in the head and neck have more weight to support.
Both of these issues cause tension in the muscles, which can lead to muscle tearing or soft tissue damage.
Why Should I Improve My Posture?
There are a number of physiological benefits that come with improving your posture, including:
- A reduction in pain
- Better balance
- Keeping your bones and joints properly aligned
- Reducing ligament injuries
- Preventing muscle strain
- Promoting efficient muscle and energy use
Having good posture is not only important for your physical health, but also for your mental health. The troublesome and painful symptoms that can come as a result of poor posture can have significant impacts on your quality of life, which can consequently impact your mental health and mood. Improving your posture helps to reduce pain, so you’ll also be likely to feel more comfortable during exercise and therefore exercise more frequently.
Chiropractic Treatments For Posture
So, can chiropractors fix bad posture? Absolutely! There are a number of chiropractic treatments that can help to improve your posture and reduce pain and discomfort. Chiropractic treatments for poor posture include:
Your chiropractor will begin by asking you a few questions to understand your symptoms and help determine what is causing your bad posture. You will likely be asked about your lifestyle, relevant medical history, the type of work you do, how you exercise, and how much time you spend looking at screens.
Your chiropractor will assess your standing and seated posture. While you’re standing, your chiropractor will stand behind you to examine the position of your head, shoulders, and pelvis. This will help them determine if your alignment is uneven. They will also examine you from a side-on angle to check if your back is hunched or your spine is unnaturally curved.
Mobility and Flexibility Tests
During your assessment, you may be asked to complete a few mobility tests. These tests allow your chiropractor to determine how your body responds to certain movements. For example, if your back is hunched and you try to straighten it, does another part of your body move to compensate for the change in position? Such tests will help your chiropractor to better understand how your body is working so that they can create a tailored treatment plan.
Your chiropractor may need to take a series of X-rays to get a better look at any changes to the shape of your spine. This will help your chiropractor to identify if scoliosis, arthritis, or another spinal condition is present.
If you require adjustments, your chiropractor will start by gently moving your shoulders and joints to get your body in a better position for good posture. These movements will help to increase mobility in the joints and reduce muscle tension so that you can ease into good posture without pain.
Soft Tissue Work
While your spine is the main focus when it comes to posture, working with the muscles is just as important, as the muscles support the structure of the spine. When muscles become weak or injured, the surrounding muscles will contract. This can cause your spine and shoulders to shift into an unnatural position. Your chiropractor will use soft tissue work in two ways: muscle strengthening exercises will help to correct muscle weakness, while muscle stretching exercises will relax tense and overworked muscles.
Exercises For Bad Posture
There are a number of exercises you can do at home to help improve your posture. Here are a few to start with:
- Child’s Pose – This resting pose stretches the spine and glutes, while releasing tension in your neck and lower back. Kneel on the ground and send your hips back towards your feet. Then, walk your hands out in front of you and rest your forehead on the ground.
- Cat Cow – The cat cow exercise helps to massage your back and release tension. On all fours, curve your spine up and tuck your chin in. Then, reverse the exercise by tilting your chin up and letting your chest fall through.
- Forward Fold – This exercise stretches out your spine, hamstrings, and glutes. Stand up straight then fold at the hips, holding onto your ankles and tucking your chin to your chest.
- Open Your Chest – This exercise stretches out your chest and relieves any pressure on your back. Clasp your hands behind you and open your chest towards the ceiling, tilting your chin upwards.
- Cobra Pose – The cobra exercise lengthens the spine, which can counteract bad posture. Lie on your front with your hands on either side of your ribcage, and lift your torso up, tilting your chin up to the sky.
What You Can Do To Improve Your Posture
In addition to your hands-on treatment and exercises, your chiropractor will likely suggest a series of lifestyle changes, stretches, and rehabilitation activities for you to complete at home. These activities will help you maintain the work done in your sessions, and allow you to get better results faster. Recommendations may include:
Upper Body Stretches
Completing just one upper body stretch during the day can help to keep the pain associated with bad posture at bay.
Start off by standing and facing the wall, then put your arms out straight and place your palms flat against the wall. You know you’re doing this correctly if your elbows rest at shoulder height. Place one foot in front of the other and bend the knee of your leading leg forward, leaning into the corner of the wall. Take some deep breaths and keep your back straight, your head up and your chest puffed outwards. If done correctly, you will begin to feel your body stretching. Hold this position for around 20-30 seconds.
Your chiropractor is likely to recommend that you stretch your neck muscles regularly by turning your head from one side to another. They may also suggest that you practise the ‘curve’ reversal stretch. If you’ve been leaning over your desk, stretch back the other way to alleviate pressure and pain.
Use A Stand Up Desk
Many of us spend all day sitting down, leaning over our laptops. Switching between standing up and sitting down, and ensuring the top of your screen is level with your eyes, will help to combat poor posture and hunched shoulders.
Hold Your Phone At Eye Level
It’s common for those suffering from neck stiffness to cite using their phones as one of the main aggressors of this pain. With many of us now spending hours on end on our phones, ‘text neck’ is becoming increasingly common and could affect our posture. Holding your phone at eye level prevents hunching as it lifts your neck up.
Your abdominal muscles support your lower back, so it’s important that they are strong. Your chiropractor may recommend exercises such as abdominal crunches, where you lie on your back, engage your pelvic floor and transverse muscles, and curl up as if you’re sliding your rib cage down to your pelvis.
We’re Here To Help
Our expert chiropractors at MyChiro can help to fix your bad posture and treat any pain or discomfort you might be experiencing. For more about our chiropractors, visit our dedicated page here. You can book an appointment online here, or contact us with any questions.