The “800-Pound Gorilla” of Health and Wellness
Good posture isn’t exactly a high priority for many Americans. For millions of us, the number-one priority is working to provide for our families—and sitting all day at a desk is how we achieve that. However, poor posture while sitting at work for many hours every day can actually lead to poor posture while standing the rest of the time—and that’s a more serious problem than one might think.
A Wall Street Journal article entitled “How Bad Sitting Posture at Work Leads to Bad Standing Posture All the Time” talks at length about this phenomenon. Allston Stubbs, an orthopedic surgeon at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who treats patients with back or joint pain, puts it this way: “[Posture] is probably the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to health and wellness… We see the spine and overall skeletal structure being critical to a patient's functionality and their satisfaction with their life and health care.”
This means that many Americans’ habit of sitting all day with no thought to their posture has severe consequences—without good posture, many people can develop serious neck, shoulder, and back pain, leading to a sharp decline in their quality of life. Sitting all day with poor posture can lead to muscular back pain, herniated discs, and even pinched back nerves.
Poor sitting posture can also cause tension headaches, diminished breathing, and fatigue. It can even make you look older, according to the LA Sentinel. “Never underestimate the beauty and health benefits of good posture. Often poor posture is just a bad habit that is easily corrected. Poor posture not only makes you look older, but could be the first step toward dowager's hump, double chin, potbelly, and swayback as well as some internal problems too. When a person is hunched over or not standing straight, that person may be perceived as older than they actually are. Good posture is not only beneficial to your body; it also makes you look taller and slimmer. What's more, good posture can convey self-confidence, which may just be the best accessory you can have.”
Additionally, good posture is essential for a healthy spine. It can reduce or eliminate back (and shoulder and neck) pain, and it can even improve your mood.
However, there are millions of people today who simply have not learned what good posture is—and it’s not standing rigid, with shoulders thrown back, as many may have learned in childhood. Rather, as the WSJ articles says, “Good posture doesn't just mean standing with the shoulders thrown back. More important is maintaining good alignment, with ears over the shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over the knees and ankles. Body weight should be distributed evenly between the feet.”
While workplace-related posture problems are getting a lot of attention in the media these days, the importance of good sitting posture to office workers’ health is hardly news to the U.S. government. The United States’ Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers a number of tips for good sitting posture, including keeping your head in line with your torso as well as keeping your elbows close to your body and your thighs and hips parallel to the floor. OSHA also recommends using a well-padded seat, keeping your shoulders relaxed, and making sure your forearms, wrists and hands are straight and well-aligned.