With so many of us working from home, often in less-than-ideal conditions, we likely aren’t all sitting on ergonomically-designed chairs made to encourage proper posture while we work on our computers. Some of us are on couches, others at kitchen tables, and still others on floors or any surface with enough space to work. “The rapidness in which people were sent home to work left little to no time to set up a proper office space,” physical therapist Julie Larson explained to Providence. “Also, without the usual distractions of work, people find themselves sitting for three to four hours or more without getting up. That extended sitting leads to poor posture, which can ultimately lead to pain.”
We also may do a poor job at keeping proper posture at other times. Standing for long periods of time while doing certain jobs, relaxing on the couch, and other leisure activities can also lead to slouching. And slouching for extended periods of time on a daily basis can actually cause issues well beyond lower back pain.
Physical issues caused by slouching
Slouching doesn’t only affect your back, but can directly influence other parts of your body and cause issues beyond what might be obviously connected to poor posture (via Hello Giggles). For instance, slouching may cause or worsen headaches. The unnatural bend to your spine can strain and tighten muscles in your neck, leading to tension headaches and possibly even contributing to worsened migraines and other types of head pain. It also negatively affects your breathing. Slouching constricts the muscles in your chest and abdomen, which can cause you to take more shallow breaths. In order to feel relaxed and healthy, you need to breathe fully and deeply, which also allows for better oxygen intake.
Slouching can also create a vicious cycle of weakened upper body strength. Slouching prevents your abdominal and back muscles from doing their job to hold you upright, so those muscles weaken. The weaker the muscles are, the more difficult it is for you to sit or stand with proper posture. Another essential part of your body that becomes restricted and unable to work properly when you hunch over is your digestive system. According to Harvard Health, slouching can cause slowed digestion and constipation, especially if you have poor posture while you are trying to relieve yourself. It can also cause urine incontinence, making it more likely you’ll “leak” a little when laughing or sneezing. Slouching can also cause heartburn.
Unexpected mental effects of slouching
Outside of the physical issues, slouching can also have surprising negative effects on your mind. According to a scientific article published in the journal Meridian, it can affect both your mental health and your memory. People who slouch are more likely to have less confidence, poorer self-image, and suffer from depression. This can also be a cycle — with the depression leading to slouching and the slouching perpetuating negative feelings about oneself. Forcing yourself to sit up straight is a sort of fake-it-till-you-make-it approach to rebuilding positive feelings about yourself and feeling stronger and more able to literally and figuratively hold your head up high.
Frequent slouching can also cause brain fog and lack of clarity by disrupting blood flow to your brain (via Hello Giggles). Sitting up straight encourages the proper flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, vastly improving memory and clear thinking.
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