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Is your poor posture causing more trouble than just making you look shorter and stouter than normal? Bad posture habits often develop when you’re young, but they can lead to a lifetime of slouching and slumping which not only negatively impacts your back health, but can actually mess with your digestion and breathing too.
Consequences of Bad Posture
Sitting up straight helps to align the spine and support it’s natural inward curvature in the lower back. Slouching and hunching the back on the other hand places excessive pressure on vertebrae, and tugs and strains the adjacent muscles and tendons. Craning the head and neck forward past your shoulders (like with “text neck”) also pulls on vulnerable neck and back muscles.
All this undue stress leads to inflammation, muscle tension, headaches, and chronic back pain. Combined with added pressure from bad posture on the chest cavity which houses the lungs, as well as pinching and folding of the abdomen, and you can experience diminished breathing capacity and slower digestion too.
So what can you do?
Remembering to “sit up straight” seems simple enough, but every now and then you need a little extra support. The following 5 pieces of equipment might be just the ticket to practicing better posture today:
Lumbar Support Cushions
The lumbar spine region is located at your lower back, where the spine naturally concaves above the hips. Improper, rounded posture tends to push the lumbar spine outward which can cause many of the above problems. Lumbar support cushions serve to encourage the more natural inward curvature and prevent back pain. Use them when working at the office, sitting at the computer at home, or even driving. Car back support pillows and cushions are especially helpful for long work commutes or road trips.
Using a foam roller is kinda like giving yourself a free deep tissue massage. This version of self myofascial release involves stretching, rolling, and using a long foam cylinder as a prop to do certain exercises and yoga poses. When it comes to enhancing your posture for the better, working out tight, stiff muscles is a must.
Limber, more pliable muscle tissue tends to help you be more flexible and supports spine lengthening and alignment. Using a foam roller is simple – position the part of your body you want to massage on top of it, and use your weight to bear down while you roll up and down the foam roller on the floor. Use on your back, thighs (IT band), quads, etc.
Just like you might utilize an orthotic aid like a knee brace or wrap to help support and stabilize an injured knee joint, a posture brace can serve as the extra support your back needs to keep your spine straight and shoulders down and back. Posture braces can be found online and in some drugstore or big box stores, and they come in a variety of styles.
Some posture braces will simply loop over the shoulders and around the back to help keep your chest open and shoulders back, while others will focus on your entire torso or lower back. The best posture brace will encourage you to sit and stand up straighter (when working or even exercising) to correct some of the damage bad posture has caused over the years, as well as take some of the stress off your back muscles and joints.
For many, bad habits are most overwhelmingly practiced during the workday at a desk job. A standing desk makes a great investment in helping you both sit less and practice better posture. As standing desks become more and more popular, the variety and cost across the market continue to become more accessible for individuals.
Some standing desks are simple stationary wooden or steel structures, while others are mechanized and can rise up or lower with the press of a button. When you stand to work with both feet flat to the ground, it is physically harder to slouch and slump; you simply want to be careful about craning your head and neck forward while you stand to work at your computer.
As with most problems in the technological age, there is a digital solution for bad posture habits which comes in the form of apps you can download to your smartphone or computer. The PostureZone app offers education and awareness tools like body maps to help you measure your own posture and symmetry as well as track posture changes.
Posture Man Pat uses your computer’s monitor to measure your head height and alert you when you’re slouching. And Perfect Posture Workout actually vibrates in your pocket to alert you when you need to be straightening your spine up.