Posture affects the nervous system which controls all body function. When you maintain good posture, your spine is in alignment and your nervous system functions at its optimal state. Poor posture creates stress on the nervous system that leads to painful conditions such as back pain and headaches as well as attention disorders, sleep issues and weight gain.
How does a healthy spine and good posture improve your overall health?
Dr. Luke Stringer: The saying in the medical community, that posture is the window to your health. And the old Greek philosopher, Hippocrates said, “In sickness and disease look to the spine first.” So, your spine essentially is the structure of the body, right? Everything anchors into it, and then obviously the central nervous system that simply controls everything we do, feeding, functioning comes out of it.
So, when your spine is in alignment and it’s moving well, then obviously the stress and tension that is placed on your nervous system is minimal. And when we’re not running in a stressed state, we obviously function in an optimal state. However, if our spine is unhealthy and that maybe through things such as poor posture, then it’s going to create stress and tension onto the nervous system. And when our body is in a state of stress then we just don’t function well. There are different types of stress: We have environmental stress, work deadlines for example. We have postural stress, being strapped to your desk particularly during this pandemic, creating a lot of pain. We have a lot of chemical stress, things that you put into your body.
The postural stress specifically is very repetitive, and if you’re in a state of poor posture and your spine shifted out of alignment, it can really affect how we function overall. So, it may be symptoms such as general pain, neck pain, low back pain, but also nervous system controls function. So maybe those lifestyle diseases that we or corporate America have to deal with poor sleep patterns, weight gain, irritability, anxiety, things of that nature.
What are some negative effects poor posture has on your health?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Great question. Again, posture is the window to our health. So, if we’re in poor posture, in a consistent state of stress, we just don’t function well. So classically, what we see a lot of in this office is a medical phenomenon called tech neck, which means the straightening of the cervical curve and our head shoots forwards. When we’re in this poor posture it can create a lot of stress and tension with all the muscles and the tendons within the neck and the upper back. Classic symptoms are going to be neck pain, your shoulder pain, your headaches, pain that starts reverting to your arm. And what we’re dealing with a lot of times in our office, typically with young kids, is a lot of sensory disorders. So, when you’re in a constant state of stress, it affects hormone proliferation, and essentially affects how we function.
So, for example, if we’re in a chronic state of stress, it’s going to raise our cortisol levels. If it raises our cortisol levels it’s going to block hormone reception and that can have a detrimental effect on how we function. So, if you’re talking specifically in the pediatric realm, we see a lot of cognitive issues, ADD, ADHD, sensory disorders. And if you’re talking more adults, yes, we’re getting those, but it’s going to be poor sleep, irritability, poor mood, weight gain, just because it’s going to throw our hormones all over the shelf.
Can maintaining good posture help prevent back and neck pain?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. There are different types of low back and neck pain. For example, if you’re in a car accident, the car accident is obviously going to damage muscle linked to tendons and the spine, and that’s going to create pain and acute pain. So, something that’s just happened, and it usually lasts for two or three months.
However, what we tend to see with poor posture is the pain is a little more chronic. So, it might be lower level, it may not be, but it’s usually a lower level, but it lasts for a longer period of time. So again, we’re talking about the cervical spine, our neck, if we’re out of alignment, classic symptoms, we get in the office are a headache, neck pain, upper back pain. And obviously our low back, our lumbar spine, can be in poor posture. That can create lower back pain, pelvic pain, pain that refers into our extremities.
So, what is good posture? It’s good spinal alignment, it’s good healthy joint function so a great range of motion, flexibility in all the joints, but specifically, it’s going to come through a lot of balance strength in all the muscle groups that essentially stabilize and move this back. So, if we’re in good posture, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to be feeling and functioning very well. If you’re in poor posture, then there’s a great chance that you’re not going to be feeling and or functioning very well.
Now for athletes, how is good posture important for sports performance?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Great question. Good posture is a prerequisite for a healthy joint and a healthy joint in athletes, obviously is extremely important. So essentially, if we’re talking about an athlete that has to perform at a high level and a prerequisite for a healthy joint is full range of motion. So, if your spine is shifted into a position of poor posture, it’s going to create a compensatory issue. So, compensation might be, it might increase the load within the joint in terms of how much weight that joint has to carry. So, if the joints carry more weight, then the tissue that surrounds the joint that stabilizes and moves it, is going to have to work too hard. When it works too hard over time that tissue breaks down and other muscles are going to have to compensate and work harder, and this creates poor imbalances.
So, athletes need full healthy range of motion within the joints. They need balance strength in the muscle groups in order to perform at that high level. And when we shift out of alignment, for example, let’s say our low back curve shifts two inches forward. That’s going to start transferring our weight differently into the pelvis, which will transfer the weight into the knee, which will transfer the weight into the foot and ankle. These joints are all going to work too hard. We’re going to start compensating, and essentially, we’re just going to break down. So, posture is critically important particularly for athletes to really reach the top end of their performance.
Can maintaining good posture reduce fatigue and increase your energy level?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. And that leads me back to the beginning of the podcast here, but when we’re in good posture, it creates minimal stress and tension on the nervous system. And when we’re in poor posture, we’re in a chronic state of stress.
So, there’s two types of nervous system. We have a parasympathetic nervous system which is the nervous system we enter when we sleep, for example. We call that the rest and digest. That’s where we enter rapid eye movement. That’s when the body regenerates and essentially, that’s how we heal. Well, there’s another type of nervous system called your sympathetic nervous system. And that’s the reactive nervous system. So, for example, if you were rear ended in a car, hairs on your neck stand up, eyes go wide, blood goes to the areas that are needed, so we’re in a poor postured position, we’re in a chronic state of stress. So, we’re more sympathetic than we are parasympathetic. So classically, if we’re in a sympathetic tone, it’s going to just send our cortisol and our other hormones through the roof. So, if we’re consistently producing high levels of cortisol, it’s going to essentially ask the body to work far too hard. We’re never going to get a chance to rest and digest, to relax.
So, yes, if we’re in poor posture, it’s usually chronic. It happens over time, caveat unless you’ve had a significant trauma. And over time, the response in our sympathetic tone, that sympathetic nervous system, all those lifestyle changes, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, poor energy levels, increased weight gain, low libido, low energy. So yes, absolutely if we’re in poor posture, it generally affects how we function and we coined the term in our office, those lifestyle diseases. And we deal with those lifestyle diseases, particularly in the city of Chicago, many of our corporate athletes are dealing with those types of lifestyle diseases.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Luke Stringer visit www.southloopchiropractor.com or call (312) 987-4878 to schedule an appointment.