The Unsettling Side Effects Of Not Correcting Your Posture
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
If you spend any part of your day sitting, then you know how easy it is to start slouching—especially if you're in front of a computer, on your phone, or getting comfy on the couch. It's no wonder that most of us have poor posture; sitting is ingrained in our culture. Whether we're responding to emails or enjoying a meal, we're constantly chair-bound, and it's taking a toll on our posture.
I myself have struggled with my posture for years, and it wasn't until recently that I received help from a professional, Sarah Kostyukovsky, P.T., DPT, OCS. She gave me take-home exercises to do and actionable advice on how we all can improve our posture. But something that stuck out to me in our conversation was the consequences of having poor posture for a long period of time. To say they're disconcerting is an understatement.
Here are the consequences of not fixing your posture, ranked from (in my opinion) bad to worse.
You'll experience short-term and long-term pain.
The first unpleasant side effect of bad posture, as you may have guessed or experienced, is pain. For me, it's my shoulders, but many folks struggle with lower-back pain, neck pain, and even tight hips from sitting too long. Poor posture causes stiffness and also puts stress on our bodies, which can lead to pain and, over time, injury.
"A lot of back pain creeps up on you," Kostyukovsky says. "It's not always that you bend down and pick up a box and hurt yourself like that. Pain from posture and sitting develops and becomes worse over time."
It will be increasingly difficult to correct your posture.
Posture, as we've learned, is all about alignment. When our bones are aligned, the muscles that hold us upright are activated. If we're out of alignment, those muscles aren't engaged, which means they start to weaken from lack of use.
For example, if you're constantly sitting in a bad posture, the muscles between your shoulders and your core are not being used. So unless you're putting in substantial effort outside of your day-to-day to strengthen those muscles (i.e., doing upper-back strengthening exercises or regularly attending Pilates), then those muscles will be out of practice, and it'll take more time and effort to strengthen as much as you need to for your posture to improve.
Still not convinced you should change your ways?
Your bad posture will become permanent—as in, impossible to reverse.
Wait, what? Yeah, that's not a joke. Consistently sitting in a poor posture can literally transform the shape of your body for the rest of your life.
According to Kostyukovsky, "If we adopt rounded shoulders or too much of an upper back curve from sitting behind a desk for years, and we rarely move from that position, our spine can actually get into a fixed position where it's impossible to correct."
"That's why it's important to learn proper posture and maintain the strength of your posture muscles so it doesn't become a fixed deformity."
If that doesn't make you sit up straight at this moment, give it a few minutes to sink in. You might not care about having poor posture now, but having it for the rest of your life? Not exactly what any of us had in mind.
It's important to remember that this fate is preventable if you take the right steps to correct your posture. First and foremost, if you're having pain or suffer from poor posture, you should see a physical therapist. In addition to that, doing gentle stretches during your day can help relieve tension caused by poor posture, like a thoracic extension or scapular retraction. Pilates is also amazing for alignment, as is yoga if done correctly.
Bottom line: Don't wait until it's too late. Put in the time and effort to correct your posture now, before it becomes something you regret.
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction. A runner, yogi, boxer, and cycling devotee, Bass searches for the hardest workouts in New York (and the best ways to recover from them). She's debunked myths about protein, posture, and the plant-based diet, and has covered everything from the best yoga poses for chronic pain to the future of fitness, recovery, and America's obsession with the Whole30 diet.