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Stand Up Straight

Slouching is bad for the back—and the whole body

By Gina Marino, D.C.

Our parents were right when they nagged us about our posture. Poor posture can trigger back pain and may even affect the body’s alignment. May is National Correct Posture Month, so let’s talk about why poor posture is worth improving. 

Slouching throws off the spine’s alignment, stressing muscles and joints while increasing the risk of back pain. Normally the spine functions as a single unit to support our weight, according to Harvard Health Publishing. If the back isn't properly aligned, one area may be doing too much work, leading to chronic pain.

Poor posture may also play a role in these conditions:

  • Back injuries. When our spine, joints, muscles and ligaments are tight or not properly aligned, we’re at higher risk of injury, as well as balance problems and falls.

  • Arthritis and joint pain. Tight muscles can stress the joints and worsen arthritis symptoms. 

  • Increased pain. Tight muscles aren’t just painful; they may press on nerves, increasing back pain, or pull the spine out of alignment. 

  • Decreased flexibility. Poor posture causes spinal misalignments and tightens muscles, tendons and ligaments, potentially affecting range of motion.

  • Muscle fatigue. It takes much more effort to move tight muscles and joints than loose ones. 

  • Altered gait. When poor posture affects the gait, it can trigger imbalances throughout the body.

  • Headaches. Misaligned vertebrae and tight muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back can be a factor in tension headaches and migraines.

  • Emotional changes. Posture can have a huge impact on mood. Poor posture can lead to low self-esteem, sadness, depression and lack of energy; good posture can boost stamina, confidence, alertness and happiness. 

  • Cardiovascular, lung and digestive disorders. A University of Southern California study found that forward head posture can add up to 30 pounds of pressure on the spine and reduce lung capacity by up to 30 percent, potentially leading to heart and vascular disease. It also found a relationship between forward head posture and digestive disorders. 

  • Premature death. According to the American Cancer Society, prolonged sitting is associated with a higher risk of early death. 

Practicing Perfect Posture

Improving posture may be a simple way to decrease back pain. The American Chiropractic Association recommends a natural standing position: knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart, shoulders pulled back, weight on the balls of the feet, stomach tucked in. The head should be level, with earlobes over shoulders.

Another way to ease back pain naturally is chiropractic. In a 2016 study published in Health SA Gesondheid, South African researchers discovered that chiropractic is effective for treating postural kyphosis, a condition that causes the upper back to appear rounded due to slouching.

Study participants were divided into three groups. The first received spinal manipulation therapy only, the second received the therapy and did strengthening and stretching exercises, and the third only did the exercises. The second group showed the most dramatic changes in posture.

A chiropractor can also recommend exercises to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles and discuss other changes that may improve posture, such as using ergonomic office furniture, changing sleeping positions or losing a few extra pounds.

Gina Marino, D.C., owns the Center for the Alignment of Body, Mind and Spirit, located at 2050 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh, NY. For appointments or more information, call 516-221-3500 or visit

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