Everywhere we go, people are staring down at their phones –– hunched over, shoulders rounded, head forward. The long-term effects of this are shocking. There’s even a study showing people are growing ‘horns’ in the backs of their heads because of this prolonged posture. 
So what does good posture look like and how should you define it? Good posture refers to the proper vertical stacking of your skeletal structure, which enables you to interact with gravity healthily, while avoiding excessive stress on your body. This involves your head and your upper back being vertically aligned over your base of support and keeping a proper ‘lordosis’ of both your lumbar and cervical spine (which means a small, arched shape of those regions).
Good posture should also be automatic or reflexive, meaning you need not remind yourself to hold your body in this position. Research shows that even if you check your posture ten times a day, you will still revert to poor habits within minutes after checking. To maintain good posture, it’s important to control your breathing and your body awareness while in different situations and contexts. Healthy alignment involves having your core muscles, and all the stabilizing structures along your spine, appropriately engaged for whatever tasks you’re doing. This means you relax your muscles when you’re standing still. But muscles are fully engaged when you’re doing something strenuous, like bending forward to lift something heavy. Efficient use of structures like ligaments, tendons and muscles helps protect against injury and regulates the ability of your nervous system to direct and control movements. Besides efficient use of your body, postural longevity is less about strength and more about muscular endurance. Despite some populations having to bend forward for many hours throughout the day and pick things up off the ground, individuals in these cultures have little to no back pain, and they maintain a healthy, natural curve of the spine, even as they age.
Poor posture can lead to degeneration of spinal structures and the first one that comes to mind is the lower cervical spine. Most disc injuries in the spine occur in the lower cervical and lower lumbar areas because these areas have to support your body as you lean forward. The average cell phone user logs three hours and fifteen minutes of screen time per day, just on their phone, while the average American leans forward 3,000 to 5,000 times per day. This can lead to a lot of degeneration over time!
Try bending one finger back slightly and holding it there for a few minutes. You may notice a slight loss of blood flow to the structures on the palm side of your finger, and those structures may turn lighter. Now imagine maintaining that mild stretch for hours per day for several months. It all has a detrimental effect on those structures in your finger; the joints will become weaker and less stable.
The same thing occurs in your spine if you are looking down at your phone. Instead of just supporting the weight of your head, which is 10 to 12 pounds, it will be like supporting 40 to 50 pounds and leads to injury. As you can see, you’re on track for damage and worse posture if you keep up your current habits. So what can you do to create good posture? We’ll explore this together in the upcoming blogs.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.