Posture has been found to have an effect on both the body's physical function and our mental and emotional states.
The effects of poor posture are well documented, ranging from physical symptoms, such as muscle pain, restricted breathing and digestion, through to the effect on our mental and emotional states.
On average, office workers spend around 80% of their day sitting. And when you are sitting, there is a good chance that you are slumping forward. Consequently, office workers have far greater incidences of lower back pain than more active workers.
This is because, for every centimetre that the head shifts forward, the pressure on the muscles in the back and neck doubles in an effort to hold the head up. This can result in muscular aches, pains and discomfort. Over a period of time, this can also throw the skeletal structure out of alignment, and the posture can get stuck in a forward position that it is unable to correct.
The skeleton is the scaffolding on which all your muscles,ligaments, tendons, organs and circulatory systems depend.
When posture becomes stuck in a position the body can't self correct, there is the potential for the various automatic body processes to be impacted.
A slumped over posture can put pressure on the internal organs. A compressed rib cage can restrict breathing, oxygen flow and blood circulation, and digestion can be affected if the abdomen is restricted.
Not only does having your body in a more upright position allow you to breathe more fully and easily, but as you get more oxygen into the blood, it helps you to think more clearly. This has a positive flow on effect for mood, concentration and energy levels in general.
Dr Zahedi has noticed over the years in practice, that as the head is brought back into alignment with the body, his clients' energy levels also increase.
"Every day, in my practice, I see clients who can't believe the effects posture has on their health. They feel freer and better able to deal with the stresses of everyday living: their outlook is generally more positive, and their immune system is stronger," he says.
Scientific research backs this up. When your body is in a slumped over posture with the head in a forward position, this puts greater pressure on the muscles of the neck and back to hold it up. If your muscles are tensed all the time, this negatively impacts on both the surrounding tissues as well as the nearby organs.
The result of this is that your homeostasis (how your body maintains equilibrium, chemical balance and temperature control) takes more energy to maintain. Any place in your body that is out of alignment and cannot self correct takes up more energy as the body strives to bring itself back into balance.
So what can we do to improve posture?
If you do experience muscular pain, help is available. The latest breakthrough in chiropractic care - 'Advanced Biostructural Correction TM' - works by releasing bodily injuries, effectively unwinding past muscular trauma, enabling the body to move free from pain, and re-establishing a natural upright posture.
Once posture has been corrected, it's important to maintain an upright posture for optimal health. So, here are a few tips to maintain a good healthy upright posture:
If your office chair seat is adjustable, tilt your seat so it's lower at the front and higher at the back. If not, place a foam wedge or folded towel at the back of your seat. This lifts your bottom above knee height and positions the spine in a relaxed normal S-curve resulting in a good upright posture. (See diagram).
Movement is important to take the pressure off your lower back. Where possible alternate between a desk, standing desk, office couch or conference table. Or take phone calls standing up and suggest a walking meeting.
It's also important to stretch and strengthen your muscles. Build in regular walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga or Pilates during the working week to improve your general health.
Standing and walking
Standing and walking can take the pressure off your body, but it is also important to have good posture while standing or walking. Dr Zahedi recommends a shoe with a slight heel to ensure the body is kept in an upright alignment.
Posture whilst sleeping
Even sleeping with a good posture has health benefits for the body. A firm mattress is ideal because it supports your spine. With a firm mattress, your spine will go back into a neutral position enabling your spine to rest from the day's exertions.
Dr Zahedi examines this issue in his new book, Straight Forward - Why Posture affects your health and how to fix it
Dr Hooman Zahedi is a Sydney chiropractor