Posture is not just for your mom

Is Bad Posture Causing a “Slouch” in your Mood?

Forward head, rounded shoulders, and slumped back.  With today’s rampant use of cell phones and electronic devices, this is a posture I’m sure you’re all too familiar with.  As your posture strays from its biomechanically ideal position, it becomes obvious that your joints and muscles are taking on extra stress.  But what might not be obvious is how your posture is affecting other areas of your body. 

Recent research has come out finding posture to affect certain functioning patterns of our brains.  In particular, research has found posture to affect brain functions such as cognition, emotions, and memory.  In one study done by San Francisco State University researchers, after participants adopted correct biomechanical posture, they reported improvements in mood and increase in overall energy.  Other literature has found adapting the correct posture to improve memory recall. 
The effects of good posture extend beyond the cranium.  Hormone production and breathing are also affected by posture.  A study done examining how posture can impact our sympathetic nervous system (the system which activates your stress response), found participants who adopt a slumped posture are more likely to have an increased sympathetic response3.  This increase in sympathetic activity results in increased production of the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol.  Prolonged elevation of these hormones can lead to chronic disease.  If that isn’t enough, posture has also been shown to affect respiratory function.  Studies show the farther forward your head comes out in front of your body, the lower your vital lung capacity4.

Now that you know the HUGE impact posture can have on your health, you might be wondering what you can possibly do to correct your posture in our technology driven society.  Below I have listed the top 5 things you can do today to help correct poor posture.

  • Be mindful of your posture

Simply being mindful of your posture is an easy way to help correct it.  Whenever you catch yourself slouching, simply imagine there is a string attached to the top of your head and is pulling you up towards the ceiling.  You can also use personal reminders such as setting an alarm every 20 minutes.  Another way to reminder yourself to keep good posture is by taping kinesotape in an “X” pattern across your upper back.  Using this taping pattern will not only work to pull your shoulders back into a biomechanically correct position, but will also act as a reminder when your shoulders round forward because you will feel the tape stretching.  There are also some very cool devices now on the market that are able to remind us of our posture.  A device such as Lumo Lift or Posture Coach sits between the shoulder blades and monitors your body’s position.  Anytime you adopt a slouched position, the device will send a vibrating reminder down your back telling you to correct your posture. 

  • ​Adopt an ergonomically friendly environment

With the majority of our time being spent using computers, tablets and phones, making sure we have a properly set up work station has never been more important.  First, I would recommend everyone has a sit to stand desk.  When you are sitting, make sure your bottom is touching the back of the chair, feet are flat on the ground, and your shoulders are back.  When standing at your desk, make sure your weight is distributed evenly between both legs, and you are standing tall (think string pulling your head again).  If you don’t have access to a sit to stand desk, try to get up every hour to stretch your muscles and to reset your posture. 

  • ​Improve your posture with stretches and exercises

In our clinic we use specific Chiropractic Biophysics exercises which are tailored to correct postural imbalances by using mirror image holds.  These exercises are individualized to each persons needs based on their imbalances found through our posture analysis technology.  In general, strengthening the back muscles will benefit the vast majority of people.  Performing exercises that involve pulling with your back, such as rows, pulls back rounded shoulders. 

  • ​Breathe from your belly

Breathing from your belly has a plethora of posture benefits.  First, when you take breaths into your belly, it will stabilize your core and result in greater lumbar support for your lower back.  Breathing from your belly forces you to use your diaphragm instead of your accessory respiratory muscles found in your neck and upper thorax.  Overuse of the accessory respiratory muscles results in hyperactive sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles which can damage your posture.

  • ​Get adjusted on a regular basis

There is no substitute for regular chiropractic care, which works to balance your body’s nervous system so it can adapt a normal posture.  In addition, chiropractic adjustments will provide your body the with proprioceptive input it needs to align itself properly.  Adjustments will also calm hyperactive posture muscles and mobilize joint restrictions that can be harmful to posture. 

Rosário, J. L., Diógenes, M. S. B., Mattei, R., & Leite, J. R. (2016). Angry posture. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
2.   Jurik, Vojtech.  “How Body Influences Memory: The embodied aspects in retrieval of autobiographical memories.”  2015.
Nair, S., Sagar, M., Sollers, J. III, Consedine, N., & Broadbent, E. (2015). Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial. Health Psychology, 34(6), 632-641.
4.  Han, J. et al. (2016) Effects of forward head posture on forced vital capacity and respiratory muscles activity. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 28(1) p. 128–131.

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    Dr. Sheena grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota and completed her undergraduate studies in Architecture, Chemistry, and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.