Bad posture isn’t just hunching over — though it’s definitely number 1 on our list of postures to avoid. There are a multitude of bad habits and positions that are harmful to your back (and we’re all guilty of them too). Read on to find out what the 7 most deadly posture sins are so you can avoid pain, injury and trips to the doctor.
1. Hunching Forward
Avoid hunching over with your head tilted down and your back rounded at all cost — this is the deadliest of postures for your spine. This position, also called “text-neck”, is referred to by the posture conscious community as the new smoking and is wreaking havoc on your spine (it also leads to hunchbacks!).
Being in good posture is obviously the best solution and the healthiest choice, but this isn’t always possible. If you can’t be in A+ posture all day long, remember that there’s bad posture, and then there’s worse posture. Especially during the times you are relaxing, opt for reclining back instead of hunching over and never sit or stand with your head hanging forward.
2. Sitting with Your Legs Crossed
We admit, this is the position of choice for many of us when we sit, especially women.
But here’s why it’s deadly: when you cross your legs, your pelvis rolls forward and “unstacks” your spine. This puts pressure on your lower back and forces you to slightly lean to one side (the side that the leg is crossed over) causing an imbalanced pelvis.
Try it out if you don’t believe us — it’s actually difficult and uncomfortable to keep your spine stacked while crossing your legs.
Fun Fact: Many of us cross our legs out of habit, and we subconsciously will always opt to cross the same leg over the other. Similar to whether you’re a righty or a lefty, some research suggests that our leg of choice for crossing might be related to which side of our brain we engage most often.
3. Not Moving
So maybe your back hurts already (probably because of poor posture!) or you’re just really busy and don’t have time to move around. Being sedentary is actually just as harmful to your body as having poor posture.
Getting up and moving around even for a short while, like to the water cooler, or bathroom breaks, shakes out your muscles and releases built up tension in your body. One of the most common myths about back pain is that when your back hurts, you shouldn’t move it.
Staying active keeps your fluids moving around and lessens the amount of lactic acid build up in your muscles and spine, helping you keep the pain away.
A rounded back is damaging— but overarching your spine in effort to have good posture is equally harmful to your body.
The goal is to have a neutral, stacked spine to maintain the natural curvature of your back that most effectively protects your muscles and joints from straining.
To get into good posture, imagine your head is being pulled up by a string. Lift your chest slightly and draw in your abdominals. Keep your shoulders down and back, and your chin tucked in. You’re aiming for a strong, confident position!
Read more about other ways to get into good posture.
5. Lifting with Your Back
We’ve all heard this one before, but the fact remains true — lifting with your back causes tremendous strain on your spinal muscles, and depending on how heavy the object you are lifting is, you could end up injuring your back.
Regardless of how much you work out, your spinal muscles by nature will always be smaller and weaker compared to the muscles on your legs (trust us, it would look creepy if they didn’t).
Your legs are more equipped to handle weight so get in the habit of lifting with your legs, even for smaller, lighter objects. This way, when you do end up having to lift a heavier object, you won’t accidentally lift with your back and hurt yourself.
6. Heavy Bags
We know this is a tough one to avoid, especially if you have lots of equipment you need for work. But those one-shoulder strap computer bags, handbags, briefcases and gym bags are deadly to your posture when it’s loaded up with extra weight. A bag should weigh no more than 10% of your body weight.
Here’s why: shoulder strap bags, by design, put pressure on one side of your trapezius, an important muscle in your shoulders that’s related to a number of troubles like stiff necks, headaches, upper back pain, etc. Putting this kind of pressure (especially when carrying lots of things) is bad enough, but the extent of damage doesn’t end here.
The weight of your bag naturally pulls your body down sideways, causing you to lean to one side. To compensate, you may try leaning to the other side to balance out your upper body. This puts all kinds of strain on your back and may lead to pain and injury.
If possible, always try to carry your things in a backpack where the weight is equally distributed to both sides to your body. If not, split your belongings into two bags, and at least try to balance out the weight so that you’re not walking around lopsided.
7. Unequally Distributed Weight
Whether you’re sitting or standing, it’s easy to catch ourselves leaning to one side – even at a standing desk. Putting all of your body-weight onto one side of your body forces your spine to curve sideways in an unnatural way and puts strain on your lower back and hip area.
As comfortable as it may be to stand on one leg or lean to one side on your chair, make sure to equally distribute your weight onto both sides of your body.
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