5 Body Posture Mistakes That You’re Probably Guilty of Making

Bad body posture is what happens when your spine is put in awkward positions when sitting or standing. You may be putting pressure on your back and hips if you aren’t using the correct posture and it could have long-term effects on your body.

Woman stretching up on a chair with back aches

Sit straight with your shoulders back and head up – this is the trifecta of good body posture acknowledged by everyone. But is it realistic to stay in that position for 24 hours? Not so much. Occasionally, you might have poor body posture by slouching or slumping when you’re tired.

Bad body posture is what happens when your spine is put in awkward positions that curve it. Our daily life is spent doing things that inadvertently cause bad posture such as sitting all day at a desk or looking down at your phone or computer. Even when resting, you might be slouching on the couch. So, what positions should you avoid and how can you improve body posture?  

Human Spine and Body Posture 

The human spine is composed of four physiological curvatures – cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral. A healthy spine should maintain its gentle curves and appears in a straight line when viewed from the back. However, deformities in the spinal alignment can occur due to ageing, injuries, or even growth abnormalities. In addition to congenital spinal deformities, a change in curvature is often the long-term effect of bad posture or disease that causes the spine to deviate from its normal shape.

When your physiological curvature changes, it can cause body posture problems such as muscle stiffness and discomfort or joint pain. There are also cases of paralysis of the hands and feet caused by constant pressure on the peripheral nerve. As the spine is misaligned, it compresses the nerves and creates a tingling, burning, and eventually paralysis on the hands and feet.

Body Posture Mistakes and How to Correct It 

Poor body posture can lead to muscle pain, spinal dysfunction, headaches and breathing difficulties. Let’s look at the most common bad posture habits we tend to make and how to prevent them. 

1. Crossing your legs

A woman sitting with her legs crossed and keeping a straight body posture
Did you know that crossing your legs affects your body posture?

This seemingly comfortable sitting posture increases the pressure on the legs, causing the spine and surrounding muscles to be in a tight state. In turn, this causes neck, shoulder, low back pain and other symptoms.

In addition, cross-legged legs will also cause poor blood flow in the lower limbs and varicose veins in the legs. This position puts pressure on the pelvic and hip joints, which results in soreness and numbness in the limbs.

It is common for women to cross their legs. Hence they should be mindful of their sitting posture. 

If your sitting posture may be an issue for you, try sitting with your knees pointed slightly outward to combat leg and lower back pain. Keep the left knee pointing at 11 o’clock and your right knee at 1 o’clock and ensure your feet are flat on the ground. Be aware not to cross your ankles. 

2. Straining your neck when using your phone or computer 

Tech neck (also known as text neck) refers to a position of using your phone or computer with your head angled downwards for long periods of time. Tech neck can cause your muscles to lack support. This can lead to muscle tension and fatigue.

Small changes to your office routine can help reduce tech neck. Raise the level of your monitor and phone. The closer to eye level, the better. A study in Thailand recommends a three-minute break after every 20 minutes of work. You may take this break to stretch out your back. To do it, stand straight and stretch upwards and backwards, like an arch. Height-adjustable chairs and desks are also worth investing in. Another way to make your workstation more comfortable is by using a portable laptop stand.

3. Bending over to lift heavy objects

A woman is bending over to lift some heavy boxes outside her home
Don’t forget to bend your knees before picking up a heavy object from the floor.

Because the centre of gravity of the object is far away from the axis of the trunk, carrying heavy objects will increase the burden on the muscles and ligaments of the lower back and cause injury. In fact, bending over to pick up or lift heavy objects with straight knees can cause severe back pain or injury. 

When lifting a heavy object, first move your body as close as possible to the object and squat. Hold the object with both hands with your knees bent and lift. Rely on the flexing of your buttocks and thigh muscles to avoid excessive force on lower back muscles so damage can be avoided. ​ 

4. Awkward sleeping positions 

One bad sleeping habit is taking a nap at your desk. It causes numbness and tingling in the upper limbs due to the pressure on the arms by the head, which affects blood circulation and nerves. Sleeping on your stomach is also not advisable since it adds pressure to the internal organs, making breathing difficult.

If you’ve fallen asleep watching television, you’d know how uncomfortable it feels for your neck and back. Sleeping upright makes it difficult to change positions while you sleep and puts a strain on your body.

Try sleeping on your side, which is the position that is least likely to cause back pain. It is also the most common position. If you like to curl up in the foetal position, try to stretch out more laterally to prevent the spine from curving and causing back pain. Sleeping on your side also helps with ailments such as acid reflux and sleep apnoea. If you have lower back pain, sleep with a pillow or blanket between your knees.

5. Lying on a sofa for extended periods of time 

An Asian man lying down on a couch while doing online presentation using his laptop and headphone
It may feel comfortable but lying on a sofa can cause a bad neck and lower back pain.

While reclining on the sofa seems to be a relaxed position, this will not only limit breathing and digestion space but also easily leads to muscle damage. If you stay on your couch to work, don’t. Cradling your laptop on your lap results in a bent posture that is awkward to hold for long periods without causing pain. 

In general, just remember to move so you’re not staying in one position for too long. If you suffer from couch slouching, try sitting upright with your spine and head aligned and feet planted on the ground.

How to Deal with Pain from Poor Body Posture

Bad body posture can cause many problems, which include back pain, neck pain, muscle fatigue and even headaches. The main culprits lie in our living and working habits. Don’t let the effects of bad posture affect your health.

Try paying attention to the way you’re sitting. Keep your screen as close to eye level as possible when working on a computer or texting. Adjust your sleep position to encourage better rest.

A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician may recommend treatments such as acupuncture or tuina to help in correcting your posture and relieve any pain you might be experiencing.

If you’re still feeling pain or if the pain is acute, seek medical treatment from your doctor or TCM physician as soon as possible and avoid self-diagnosing.

This is an adaptation of an article, “生活中常见的5种不良姿势,你做了哪几样?” which first appeared on HEALTH123 website.

References

  1. The Physio Company. 2014. Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Bad Posture.  [Accessed on June 27, 2022] 
  2. GoodRx Health. 2021. This One Trick for Better Posture May Ease Back Pain in Women. [Accessed on June 28, 2022]
  3. Spine-Health. 2018. Text Neck Treatment and Prevention.  [Accessed on June 28, 2022]
  4. Sleep Foundation. 2022. Best Sleeping Positions. [Accessed on June 27, 2022]
  5. Better by Today. 2019. 11 posture mistakes you’re probably making — and how to fix them. [Accessed June 28, 2022]
  6. Taylor & Francis. 2016. Impact of rest-break interventions on the neck and shoulder posture of symptomatic VDU operators during prolonged computer work. [Accessed July 11, 2022]

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