The average American now spends eight hours per day sitting down – not just at work but also during relaxation time, such as watching TV or taking in a movie. Experts suggest that sitting for such a prolonged period is unhealthy and can cause some major issues in terms of posture, including:
- Neck strain – leaning over your desk or keyboard at work can strain the cervical vertebrae in the neck, which in turn can cause permanent damage.
- Achy shoulders – slouching or leaning forwards causes the muscles in the shoulders – especially the trapezius – to overextend, resulting in aches and pains.
- Disc damage – sitting for a period of time can damage the spinal discs as the surrounding collagen hardens and the upper body weight is unevenly distributed.
This is where memory foam support products can help. First, though, let’s find out if you’re sitting comfortably.
Spot the signs of poor posture
Poor posture may not be an issue that springs to mind readily as it’s not something you might notice yourself at first. Sitting for several hours with poor posture may not leave you feeling any different immediately but over time you could begin to notice changes – commonly back pain, which can occur as the spine alters.
If you experience back pain or discomfort in your muscles and joints, it could be the result of poor posture if it’s characterized by the following:
- Discomfort that begins in the neck and moves gradually lower down into your back over the course of the day.
- Backache that is more painful at certain times of the day.
- Pain that you notice after changing office chair, getting a new car or moving jobs.
- Discomfort that subsides after changing position when sitting or standing.
Other signs of poor posture include rounded shoulders, constant forward tilting of the head, slouching, a hunched back and bent knees, although these signs usually appear after a period of time.
What causes bad posture?
A number of factors can contribute to poor posture, including lifestyle, work and health issues.
If you’ve suffered an injury, the muscles around the affected area may enter protective mode and go into spasm – this restricts movement and ensures that the injury site is kept stable, reducing risk. However, muscles in a spasmodic state may become weaker over time, in contrast with muscles that are still working normally, and this disparity may change the body’s posture.
Some parts of the body can be particularly strong or particularly weak and may be held in a way that causes improper posture or pain. Working out or even performing general everyday tasks in a certain way can cause some areas of the body to become stronger that others, and this muscle imbalance can, in turn, cause postural dysfunction and bodily misalignment.
Slumping over a keyboard for hours every day without using an appropriate memory foam support product, tilting your head to look down at your phone for a prolonged period or spreading out on a soft sofa to binge-watch your favourite TV series are habits that you may not notice are affecting your posture. These behaviours may result in misalignment that, over time, can put pressure on the joints and cause pain.
The wrong shoes
You carry your weight on two relatively small surface areas (your feet), so making sure you wear the right footwear is crucial to maintaining healthy posture. Ill-fitting shoes or footwear that doesn’t appropriately spread the body’s weight can cause imbalance and affect joints in the ankle, knee, hip and back.
What are the different types of postural problems?
Some postural problems are the result of medical conditions, such as Scheuermann’s disease – a genetic developmental disorder that affects boys during their adolescent years. Other types of postural problems fall under four categories: lordotic (swayback), kyphotic, flat back and forward neck or head.
Lordosis is the term for the natural curve of the spine but an exaggerated curve can result in hyperlordosis, also known as swayback. The condition is usually characterized inward spinal curving in the neck or at the bottom of the back, which may affect a sufferer’s movement and balance, sometimes causing pain.
A variety of factors may lead to lordosis, including pregnancy or being obese. Conditions like kyphosis (see below) and osteoporosis are also thought to be common influencers.
Kyphosis is characterized by the rounding of the upper back by a curve of more than 50 degrees; healthy posture is associated with curvature of between 20 and 50 degrees. This additional curve gives the impression of slouching or having a hunched back.
Although kyphosis can affect anyone at any age, the condition is often seen in women who suffer from osteoporosis and have weaker bones as a result. Bones can become cracked and even compressed, which may result in both stiffness and pain.
Flat back posture occurs when the lower spine does not have a pronounced curve in the regular S shape. This lack or curve creates imbalance, tips the pelvis backwards and may cause the sufferer to lean forwards.
The imbalance of weight can cause difficulty in standing up straight and may cause the sufferer pain in the back or legs. The condition is associated with compression fractures, degenerative disc disease and ankylosing spondylitis.
Forward neck or head posture is characterized by the neck and head extending forwards past the shoulders. The shoulders and back tend to be pulled forwards too, giving a hunched appearance and causing stiffness and/or pain in the neck, shoulders or back.
To support the skull’s weight, the neck needs to be held straight. By leaning forward, more stress is placed on the neck, shoulders and back. Forward neck or head posture is usually caused by bad habits like hunching over a cellphone or computer for prolonged periods of time.
How to improve your posture
Poor posture affects many of us but it can often be corrected with exercises, by using effective memory foam support products or changing lifestyle habits. Associated with neck and back pain, stiffness and movement limitation, poor posture can have negative effects in everyday life; making changes now can help reverse posture problems become they become permanent.
Your posture at work
If you work in an office or while seated for a significant period of time, make sure your working position promotes a healthy posture. Keep your back flush against your chair and hold your head level with your spine. Arms should be flexed between 75 and 90 degrees at the elbow and your feet should be on the floor.
It can be helpful to use supportive memory foam products to enhance your posture in the office. Try a coccyx cushion or a large flat seat cushion to make sure that time spent sitting down is less uncomfortable, while a back and lumbar cushion can ensure that your back is always flush with your chair and well supported.
Some jobs require lifting and these tasks should be performed with an awareness of posture, too. Keep your chest forward and lead with your hips if changing direct during the lift. Pull the weight close to your body. This will reduce the risk or straining your back and causing injury to the joints, muscles or discs.
Your posture at home
Invest in supportive dining chairs to keep your back and neck straight during mealtimes and avoid eating meals while slumped on the sofa. Being comfortable is key to relaxation but if your sofa is too soft, it’ll encourage your body to maintain an unhealthy posture, so ensure the sofa and/or cushions you use adequately support your body.
If sleeping is uncomfortable and causing pressure points, a memory foam pillow covered with breathable bamboo and a memory foam mattress can help ensure your neck and body is well supported, promoting more restful sleep. Other products to consider include support wedges and memory foam knee pillows to help ensure your body is properly aligned at bedtime.
Your posture day to day
When driving, traveling or sitting, some extra support can help you maintain a healthy posture during unavoidable tasks. A long flight or time spent at work or elsewhere in a seated position can be uncomfortable but with the right memory foam support products, you could find that comfort is easier to achieve. A portable support cushion or flight pillow is ideal for taking some of the strain out of traveling, for example.
Try to avoid prolonged periods slumped over a cellphone, tablet or laptop, too, which can cause neck strain and encourage unhealthy habits. Focus on one thing at a time and get up regularly to relieve any buildup of tension.
If you’re suffering from backache or neck strain, it could be a sign of poor posture. Take steps to reverse bad habits and promote healthy posture with memory foam products – click here to see our full range.