A man slouched over his computer chair

Although most of us try to maintain good posture, at least when we’re paying attention to our bodies or just after we’ve seen a disturbing photo or video of ourselves, many of us are not aware of the signs that something may be awry. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our doctors observe each patient’s posture closely since poor posture is often a result of the pain they want us to resolve or one of its causes. 

As physiatrists, we are primarily concerned with alleviating pain and restoring mobility. To that end, we work with the most innovative diagnostic equipment and offer a broad range of treatment options, both traditional and complementary, many of which improve posture and general health. 

It should be remembered, however, that the poor posture of some individuals is the result of a genetic defect or weakness. In most cases, this does not mean our treatments cannot help to improve the situation. Physical therapy in conjunction with other therapies designed to relieve pain and improve flexibility can make a significant difference in how our patients learn to hold themselves in correct postural positions and to move with less awkwardness and greater fluidity.

Visible Signs of Poor Posture

You may have noticed some of these signs in the mirror or on the people around you. 

1.  Forward Head Posture 

Forward head posture is a condition in which your head is in front of your body’s midline, no longer properly aligning with the shoulders and hips. This problem has become all too common in the computer age when most of us spend a fair amount of time at the computer or using tablets or cell phones. Unfortunately, forward head posture can cause:

  • Neck pain (“tech neck”) 
  • Stiffness of the neck and shoulders
  • Unbalanced gait

The forward slant of the neck puts added pressure on the cervical spine that can result in muscle imbalance, degenerative changes in the neck (osteoarthritis), bulging of the cervical disc, and/or pinched nerves. These in turn may cause headaches, pain in the neck, shoulder, or chest, and numbness or tingling in the arms and hands.

2. Rounded Shoulders/Hunched Back

Rounded shoulders/ hunched back, also known as kyphosis, may be the result of tightened chest muscles or weakened back muscles, either of which can develop from: 

  • Spending too much time spent on a computer
  • Putting too much emphasis on strengthening chest muscles at the gym and not enough on strengthening muscles in the upper back (muscle imbalance).

Though rounded shoulders may begin with a student or office worker hunching over a book, computer or another device, or a young person working out at the gym without proper guidance, assuming a hunched position can too easily become habitual. Uncorrected rounded shoulders can increase strain on the shoulder joint and may lead to impingement or tears of the rotator cuff. 

When a hunched back combines with a forward head posture, as it often does in office workers, the condition is known as an upper-crossed syndrome which is characterized by weak, strained, or tight muscles. It’s important to become aware of kyphosis when you’re young because you likely will not feel the consequences of this poor posture until years pass.

3. Potbelly

A potbelly may not be caused by being overweight but by poor posture as well. When your lower back develops an exaggerated curve, it pushes your internal organs in your abdominal region toward the anterior region of your body. Potbellies, regardless of weight, are also linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea. 

While poor posture can contribute to a potbelly, there are other factors that can contribute to it as well. These include:

  • Poor diet
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Poor sleep
  • Stress
  • Hereditary predisposition

Whatever the cause of your potbelly, weight loss combined with exercises that strengthen your core muscles will improve your posture, appearance, and general health.

4. Slouching

Ironically, slouching, though presumably done as a form of relaxation, can disrupt neck, back, and muscle function and result in pain. Slouching puts increased stress on the shoulder joints which may cause long-term harm.

Pain Can Also Be a Sign of Poor Posture

Even if you don’t care too much about your appearance, correcting your poor posture may keep you from having:

  • Recurring headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain (upper, middle, or lower)
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Stiffness and inflexibility
  • Impaired balance
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Respiratory problems

These are good reasons to address any poor postural issues now.

Contact Our Experienced Physiatrists Today

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, where we specialize in pain management and restoring function, posture is an essential piece of the puzzle. If you suspect that poor posture is getting in the way of your everyday activities, causing discomfort, making you feel less attractive or more awkward, or interfering with your quality of life, contact our doctors now.  We will get you on the path to better posture, stronger muscles and joints, and healthier life.