Slouching promotes heartburn, incontinence, and more.
In America, we have a posture problem. Whether it's the result of sitting at a desk all day, looking down at a mobile phone or relaxing on a couch, poor posture is dogging people of all ages. And health experts are worried. "It's a common and important health problem among Americans, and it can lead to neck pain, back problems, and other aggravating conditions," says Meghan Markowski, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Other posture-related issues
While back and neck conditions top the list of prospective posture issues, there are many others-- such as poor balance, headaches, and breathing troubles. "Researchers are also checking out whether posture affects mood, jaw, fatigue, and sleep positioning," Markowski states.
Three other issues linked to poor posture may surprise you.
- Incontinence. When you leak a little urine if you laugh or cough, Poor posture promotes tension incontinence--. "Slouching increases abdominal pressure, which puts pressure on the bladder. The position also decreases the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to hold versus that pressure," notes Markowski, who focuses on helping people get rid of the bladder, bowel, and pelvic flooring issues.
- Constipation. Poor posture on a toilet-- stooped over with your knees lower than your hips-- can promote irregularity. "That position closes the rectum rather and makes it harder for the abdominal muscles to assist move feces out," Markowski states.
- Heartburn and slowed digestion. Slumped over posture after a meal can trigger heartburn caused by acid reflux (when stomach acid sprays back up into the esophagus). "Slouching puts pressure on the abdominal area, which can force stomach acid in the incorrect direction," discusses Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "And some evidence recommends that transit in the intestinal tracts slows down when you recline.
What you can do
If you suspect you have bad posture causing problems for you, Markowski advises seeing a physical therapist. The therapist will customize a program of workouts and stretches to improve your core muscle strength and flexibility. The core muscles (in the abdominal area, pelvic flooring, and back) support the spine.
The goal is a neutral, upright spine position-- not flexed too far forward or backward.
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When it's time to move your bowels, a neutral spine is likewise crucial. "Keep your back straight and lean forward at the hips. Keeping your knees higher than your hips-- by placing your feet on a footstool-- simulates a crouching position, which is best for helping to open the rectum so you can pass feces without straining," Markowski says.
To reduce the threat of stress incontinence leakage, Markowski suggests strengthening the pelvic flooring muscles. "We teach people how to control their pelvic muscles when they cough," she states. "The correct neutral spine positioning will likewise help lessen stomach pressure."
Seated knee lift
- Develops stomach strength.
- Sit on a stability ball or chair with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at your sides.
- Exhale as you lift your right knee and left hand directly towards the ceiling. Return to the starting position.
- Repeat ten times.
- Repeat the process by raising with your left knee and right-hand man
Some basic posture pointers
To achieve the neutral spinal column position, Markowski encourages you to put your shoulders down and back, pull your head back, and engage your core muscles. "Bring your stomach button in towards your spine, as if you're zipping up a snug set of denim. This will help to engage the transverse abdominis muscle, which acts like a corset around the spinal column," Markowski discusses.
Other ideas: Use a low back (lumbar) support pillow to advise you to sit upright in a chair and alter your position every 30 to 60 minutes. "We don't desire people in repaired postures for hours at a time," Markowski states. "Be watchful, and excellent posture will add to many aspects of health."