Posture got you in a slump?

Has your posture got you in a slump? Your posture is more than looking tall and lean. Our posture or physical structure impacts our bodies ability to move and function. Here are 5 interesting things that research indicates posture is related to.

Headaches

Spending a prolonged amount of time slouching and looking down, at a phone or computer, puts a big strain on the muscles in the neck and back. When you are in these positions for a prolonged period of time, the long muscles in the front of your neck may shorten to adapt to this new position.  An adult head weighs around four to six kilograms. However, research has found that looking down to your phone at a 45-degree or 60-degree angle, increases the perceived weight of the head. This can be up to approximately 22 kilograms and 27 kilograms, respectively.1 With the weight of the head increasing by 15-16 kilograms, this understandably puts additional strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support your neck. This leads to early and chronic fatigue of these structures, neck pain and headaches. 

Breathing

When you are in a prolonged slouched posture, the diaphragm (breathing muscles at bottom of lungs) tightens and is not able to descend properly. This can then cause the expansion in the ribcage to become restricted. A decrease in diaphragm breathing, means there is a decrease in the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in the lungs. This leads to a decrease in oxygen supply to the brain. This triggers a stressed like state where the body recruits it’s accessory breathing muscles. These ‘back-up’ muscles, located in the neck and chest, help to expand the rib cage and allow more space for the lungs to inflate.

Therefore when these ‘back-up’ muscles are in use, the brain increases the bodies inspiration rate, meaning that breaths become more frequent and are short and shallow in nature. This is also accompanied with an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. So overtime this can be detrimental to health and can lead to decreased lung capacity. As well as hypertension, increased fatigue, inability to exercise or do daily activities and numerous other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.2,3

Digestion

Not only does a slouched position compress the abdominal organs involved in digestion, but the forward head posture and restriction of diaphragm that accompanies it can also interfere with the function of the Vagus nerve.  

The Vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, and runs from the brain, passing through the diaphragm before reaching the abdomen. It is part of the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest part) and is responsible for the peristaltic movements in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Peristaltic movements are involuntary muscle contractions that create a wave-like motion to help push food through the GIT and expel wastes.

If the Vagus nerve is irritated or compromised, it can cause a decrease of this function and can lead to delayed gastric emptying. And symptoms of delayed gastric emptying can vary from mild to severe and can include constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, vomiting, nausea, acid reflux and/or heartburn, skin rashes such as eczema, and inflammatory bowel disorders to name a few.4  

Sleep

We spend 1/3 of our lives in bed. It is no wonder that having a poor sleeping posture can have a big impact on our bodies. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a breathing condition caused by the blockage of the airway in the throat while asleep, which can leave a person without oxygen for up to a minute at a time. Studies have shown that OSA is directly related with sleeping on ones back with high pillows that put the neck in a forward position causing the airway to restrict and/or close off. This head position is the main cause of snoring.5 Sleeping in a poor position can also cause postural distortion patterns, which can put continuous pressures on different structures in our body which can cause symptoms like pain, restlessness, pins and needles down our arms and legs (like thoracic outlet syndrome), and sometimes encourage degeneration.

Confidence, motivation and mood

Research shows that good posture can improve a person’s confidence, self-esteem and mood. This is called embodiment, which is a phenomenon where cues from the body can update mental state. A study conducted in 2015 investigated the influence of an upright seated posture compared with a slouched posture on stress responses. Results found that participants with an upright seated posture reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear compared to the slumped participants.6 To further this, a study done in 2016 showed that a slouched posture can activate a negative mood, and furthermore good posture can help someone recover from a negative mood.7 Interestingly, children may experience less bullying if they adopt good upright posture, as they portray more confidence, and look stronger and less vulnerable.8

If you have postural concerns and want to make sure you are sleeping, breathing, digesting and confident then give us a call on 3204 6331 to make an appointment

References: 

  1. Hansraj, K. (2014). Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surgical Technology International. 11(25):277-9. 
  2. Albarrati, A., Zafar, H., Alghadir, A., & Anwer, S. (2018). Effect of upright and slouched sitting postures on the respiratory muscle strength in healthy young males. BioMed Research International. 2018;2058970. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/3058970
  3. American Posture Institute. (2016). Studies link poor posture and asthma. https://americanpostureinstitute.com/studies-link-poor-posture-and-asthma/
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2018). Symptoms & causes of gastroparesis. 2018.https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gastroparesis/symptoms-causes  
  5. American Posture Institute. (2015). Sleep Apnea: Your posture may be strangling you while your sleep. https://americanpostureinstitute.com/sleep-apnea-your-posture-may-be-strangling-you-while-you-sleep/
  6. 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000146  
  7. Veenstra, L., Schneider, I. & Koole, S. (2015). Embodied mood regulation: the impact of body posture on mood recovery, negative thoughts, and mood-congruent recall. Cognition and Emotion. 31(7):1361-1376. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2016.1225003
  8. Thornton, S. (2017). Bullying: What can we do to tackle this issue in schools? British Journal of School Nursing, 12(5). https://doi.org/10.12968/bjsn.2017.12.5.252

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