I am well aware that I sound like everyone’s Grandma when I say, “Stop slouching, posture is important!”. But the thing is, Grandma was on to something! The more we learn about the human body, how it interacts with the world around us and how it works to keep us alive, the more integral posture becomes.
Why is it bad to slouch?
When our head drops forward and our shoulders round down and forward, this sends a feedback signal to our brain, specifically an area called the red nucleus. The red nucleus is always on the lookout for signs that you are in danger, and this slumped posture is a big red flag for it. When the red nucleus thinks you are in trouble, it rallies its friends (other nuclei that are in the mesencephalon) and makes you hypervigilant. These friends start a cascade of defence mechanisms within your body, releasing cortisol (a stress hormone), tightening muscles, increasing your sensitivity to light and sound, all so you can be aware of any impending danger and be ready to run or fight at a moments notice. Yes, your poor posture just switched on your ‘fight or flight’ response and made you stressed!
How does your poor posture make you irritable and tired?
When your fight or flight response is turned on, it makes you hypervigilant. Your brain is looking for any signal that you are about to be attacked, and your body is not worried about any basic functions like digesting food properly or keeping up your immune system, because there will be time for that once the danger is passed! It is hard to sleep, because your brain will wake you at the slightest sounds. You are sensitive to light and this can lead to headaches. So you are tired, overwhelmed and getting headaches, of course you are going to be cranky and irritable! The slouching posture can also decrease the range of movement of your ribcage while you breathe. This can mean that you take shallower breaths, which can affect the oxygenation levels in your body, making it harder for your cells to work efficiently and making you even more tired.
Why does my back hurt?
Part of the stress response we outlined above is muscles tightening. The muscles across your shoulders and up the back of your neck get very tight as part of this, and your low back can also get tight as your body has to compensate and redistribute the weight to keep you upright. A slouched posture is not a mechanically sound position for your body. It disengages some larger muscles (like lower trapezius and deep neck flexors) and puts their work onto muscles not designed to take such a big load (like smaller spinal extensor muscles, superficial neck flexors and suboccipitals). This can leave you stiff, sore and more prone to injury.
What is good posture?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as ‘perfect posture’. There are definitely some positions to avoid, like the slumped forward posture we have talked about, but the key to good posture is… *drum roll please*…. Movement! Our bodies were not designed to sit in one position all day. Our muscles and brains thrive on movement and the feedback it provides. Taking regular breaks to move and stretch every 15-20 minutes can decrease back pain and increase your productivity. Following good ergonomic advice with your workstation set up is also a good idea, and if you are lucky enough to have a sit stand desk, varying the height so you can go between sitting and standing throughout the day. It would take far too long to write out all the ways to keep moving, so if you would like more information, have a look at our Facebook live videos this month at #SundayLiveAt8
So why is posture important? Because it can affect every system in our body, and make us tired, moody and sore if we aren’t getting it right. Make sure you check out our live videos this month, and if you have any questions please message us or talk to us during your appointment.
To learn more about the stress response, have a look at Sympathetic September (Sept 2018 in the blog archives)
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At Ballarat and District Chiropractic Center, we want you to be empowered when it comes your health. We want to help you by sharing all our knowledge about Chiropractic.