Long hours at a desk, slouching over laptops, lugging half our worldly belongings around in a handbag...
Most of us are well aware that, day-to-day, we’re doing a lot of things that aren’t very good for our posture - and this can lead to things like back pain, aching shoulders and sore necks.
“Good posture is important on many levels,” says osteopath and biomechanics expert Claire McKenna.
“Not only is it important to reduce the effects of load on the muscular skeletal system, it also influences the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system and the neurological system – essentially, all areas of the body.
Poor posture can lead to digestive issues and problems in the pelvis and the gut, as well as respiratory issues, and headaches and back and neck pain.”
So, it’s pretty important then. But what about the less obvious things that might be damaging our posture on a regular basis? Here are 9 common pitfalls:
1. Using a phone to send emails. “We typically forwardbend our neck when using a smartphone, rather than holding it up. This repeated over many months can cause postural problems. Sending emails generally takes up more time [than texting], so you are more likely to cause postural problems,” says Tim Allardyce, clinical director at Surrey Physio.
2. Loading the dishwasher. “We seem to spend most of our day bending. And using a dishwasher can also encourage us to repeatedly forward-bend,” say Tim. “Instead, try to squat every time you load and unload the dishwasher.”
3. Wearing ill-fitting bras. “Bras need to fit properly so your shoulders don’t take all the strain,” note the experts at the British Chiropractic Association. “When shopping for bras, look for one which has an underband that is neither too tight nor too loose. Ensure the centre-fold fastener sits close to your body and that the shoulder straps are not too tight.”
4. Stress. “Don’t forget how stress can affect your posture. Are you sitting comfortably? In stressful situations, the added level of stress means the way you hold yourself is very different,” says Claire. “The long-term effects of the stress hormone can lead to chronic pain; essentially when the body starts to feel pain that isn’t there.”
5. Picking up toddlers and babies. “Back pain is very common when pregnant and following the birth, while it can be made worse if you’re not using the right technique to pick up your child and when breastfeeding,” says osteopath Garry Trainer. “Protect your back by bending at the knees when picking them up.”
6. Wearing pumps and sandals. “People tend to wear flat pumps in the summer, which aren’t great for your arches. That collapse [in the arch] then goes on to affect Sending emails from a smartphone can be a pain in the neck the ankles, knees and hips and pelvis, which can have an impact on your posture,” says Claire. “If you do like wearing flat pumps, stick to short distances only.”
7. Overdoing it in your yoga class. “While the benefits of yoga can be exceptional, you do need to be careful with some movements, especially repeated forward bending,” says Tim. “If you start to get sciatica , reduce forward bending and see a physio”
8. Gardening. Says Tim: “Kneel or sit on your heels if you can to get lower, and change positions regularly.”
9. Carrying heavy rucksacks. “We tend to hunch forward due to the weight of the bag, so you change your whole standing posture,” says Claire. “Rucksacks are still better than a handbag - just don’t have a bag that is too heavy.”