Poor Posture and the Spine

Posture is a concept that we are all familiar with. As a chiropractor in practice for almost 20 years, I always check a person’s posture when I assess them for the first time. When it is abnormal, I will often ask “How do feel about your posture?”, and the answer is usually “Yeah I know it’s pretty bad.”

The unfortunate reality is that postural problems are increasing exponentially in our society, and the most common one we see in chiropractic clinics is forward movement of the head.

Two of the most obvious consequences for people who have poor posture are neck pain and headaches. This is not particularly surprising when you consider that the average human head weighs approximately 3 kg or the weight of a bowling ball. The correct position for the head is to sit nicely on top of your spine. The human spine has inherent structural features that give it the ability to carry this weight without any problems when it is in its correct position. However, as the head leans forward, it is hanging off of the muscles, ligaments and connective tissues of the neck, which substantially increases the stress and strain on these structures.

This postural problem is becoming so common, that it has been given a name. The term “Text Neck” is being used to describe the forward head and neck posture that becomes a habit when people spend large amounts of time using smartphones and other mobile devices. This condition was featured in a number of media releases by the Chiropractors Association of Australia in recent times, discussing the latest research by New York Spine Surgeon Dr Kenneth Hansraj.

https://www.caavic.asn.au/explore-chiro/news-events/215-text-neck-new-evidence-on-how-tech-is-ruining-posture

Text neck is considered to be an affliction of young people. This is of particular concern, because kids and adolescents who have spinal problems have been shown to become adults with spinal problems. The evidence shows that neck pain associated with poor posture is NOT to be dismissed as “growing pains” and it WILL NOT “go away by itself”.

While chiropractors are certainly of the opinion that screen time for kids should be limited, there is a simple technique that can be used to lessen the impact of using devices on posture. Having the child use them while lying on their stomach on the floor makes it harder to slouch their head forward, so if a child or adolescent needs to use a mobile device at home, this is the preferred position for doing so.

Finally, it isn’t only neck pain and headaches that have been linked to poor posture. Breathing problems have also been demonstrated to accompany postural distortion of this nature. Even more, interestingly, a study which tested young people’s ability to cope with a difficult reading task found that those with an upright posture were more resilient and more able to cope with the task than those who attempted in with a slouched posture. The upright group also reported having higher feelings of self-esteem, better mood, and less fear associated with the task in front of them.

All of these findings serve to highlight the importance of maintaining good posture, not only for the benefits to the spine but also for better overall physical and mental function. If you have any other questions about your posture and how it can be improved, your chiropractor is the best person to speak to, as they are experts in promoting healthy spinal function.

References: 

1. http://therealitycheck.com/animations/chiropractic-and-posture/

2. Hestbaek L, Leboeuf-Yde C, Kyvik KO, Manniche C. The course of low back pain from adolescence to adulthood: eight-year follow-up of 9600 twins. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Feb 15;31(4):468-72.

3. Aartun E, Hartvigsen J, Wedderkopp N, Hestbaek L. Spinal pain in adolescents: prevalence, incidence, and course: a school-based two-year prospective cohort study in 1,300 Danes aged 11-13. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2014 May 29;15:187. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-187.

4. Wirth B, Amstalden M, Perk M, Boutellier U, Humphreys BK. Respiratory dysfunction in patients with chronic neck pain – influence of thoracic spine and chest mobility. Man Ther. 2014 Oct;19(5):440-4. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2014.04.011. Epub 2014 Apr 30.

5. Bradley H, Esformes J. Breathing pattern disorders and functional movement. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Feb;9(1):28-39.

6. Nair S, Sagar M, Sollers J 3rd, Consedine N, Broadbent E. Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial. Health Psychol. 2015 Jun;34(6):632-41. doi: 10.1037/hea0000146. Epub 2014 Sep 15.

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