“Straighten your back”: Is stoop really dangerous?

“SIT EIGHT”, “DO NOT SUTULE”, “KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT” – these and other phrases have historically been used by older relatives to correct the posture of younger ones (raise your hand if you regularly hear something like this). It is curious that history has always been silent about the consequences of stooping, for the sake of combating which, in some especially sophisticated cases, they could be forced to walk with books or a tray on their head. We decided to restore justice – and together with the experts we figured out how harmful it is to health and whether it is harmful at all.

About correct posture and stoop

When the spine is in a neutral position, it is not actually straight, but has three gentle curves . The lowest, in the lumbar region, bends inward towards the front of the body – this is lumbar lordosis. The middle one, located in the thoracic region, bends outward – this is thoracic kyphosis. The upper part in the cervical spine bends forward again – this is cervical lordosis. If you look at animals that walk on four legs, you will notice that they do not have such bends. And this is logical, because we need lordoses and kyphoses for upright walking.

The essence of correct posture is to stand, walk, sit and lie in a position in which the muscles and ligaments are in the least tension. At the same time, the “waviness” of the spine should be preserved, but not become more pronounced, turning into hyperlordosis (excessive deflection in the back) or, what interests us more in connection with the stated topic, stoop.

“Curvatures of the spine are formed in humans by the age of 5-6 under the influence of various factors, including muscle traction. In this sense, stoop is a curvature of the spine in the form of increased kyphosis, a natural bend in the thoracic spine, ”says Elena Belenko, vegetative neurologist, candidate of medical sciences, head of the Clinical Center for Autonomic Neurology.

“Sometimes a stooped posture can be a sign of a spinal disorder. For example, Scheuermann-Mau disease, ankylosing spondylitis, congenital anomalies and some other conditions. But even if we are not talking about the diseases I mentioned, stoop in itself can become a problem, ”adds Anton Surnov, a neurologist and chiropractor.

According to Surnov, hyperkyphosis – the same stoop, only in a scientific way – is often combined with scoliotic deformity. That is, with a curvature of the spine in the lateral plane. Such changes together and in the long term lead to overload and spasticity (cramps) of some muscles and weakness of others. Spastic muscles, in turn, are often the cause of chronic back pain. “That is why, from the first years of schooling, it is advisable to pay attention to how the child’s posture is formed. It is much easier to prevent such changes than to cure them in the future, ”the expert sums up.

Why is wrong posture dangerous?

It is important to monitor your posture not because it is aesthetically pleasing, but because in this case the whole body will function optimally . So, posture supports bones and joints in the correct position, allowing you to reduce wear on the articular surfaces and reduce the risks of related conditions (for example, arthritis and osteochondrosis), reduces the load on the spine, and prevents fatigue (muscles are used more efficiently and the body spends less energy).

“Changes in the spine can, according to the principle of feedback, affect the work of the nerve centers of the back, which control the work of internal organs and blood vessels. Here, patients have complaints such as a feeling of lack of air, a feeling of interruptions in the work of the heart, dizziness, cold and numbness in the arms and legs, ”explains Elena Belenko.

Also, problems with posture can disturb balance, increase the risk of falling (and this is especially important for older people), and make it difficult to digest food. Poor posture also puts additional strain on the neck, which can lead to tension headaches, one of the most common types of pain that feels like a tight band is being pulled over your head.

How to sit properly for an adult?

As already mentioned, it is important not only to sit correctly. However, since we sit more often and most of all – especially in connection with the coronavirus, when we have to spend a lot of time at home – it is worth figuring out how to do this. Here’s what the experts recommend :

Sit with your back straight and your shoulders squared, buttocks touching the back of the chair

MAKE SURE all three normal curvatures of the back are present while sitting (a small rolled towel, a lumbar roll, or a lumbar curvature chair may be used)

DISTRIBUTE BODY WEIGHT evenly over both thighs

Bend your knees at a right angle, keep them level or slightly above your hips

LET YOUR HANDS AND ELBOWS PROPORTION ON the table, keeping your shoulders relaxed

Why posture should be practiced in childhood

“In childhood, bones, including the bones of the back, vertebrae and joints, as well as ligaments and muscles, are still very soft, elastic and mobile. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the health of the back as early as possible, when the probability of preventing the problem remains, ”explains Elena Belenko. So doctors in this sense are in solidarity with parents and grandparents.

The expert says that with age, natural changes in the spine join the seemingly simple stoop. If the back is initially healthy, they may appear later or manifest themselves less strongly, but if there is reinforcement of the stoop and curvature of the spine, any risks increase.

What can be done to prevent the child from slouching?

According to Elena Belenko, it is very important to pay attention to the full-fledged physical development of the child: active games in the fresh air, swimming and massages will have a positive effect on health here and now and in the future. “And when doing tasks that involve working at the table, it is important to ensure that the height of the table and chair is appropriate for the child’s height,” she adds.

“Often, parents, observing a stooped posture in a child, try to pull back their child as often as possible in the hope that this will help correct the situation. Usually such actions do not bring results and the child continues to slouch. This is due to the fact that when trying to correct the position of the body, he experiences pain or discomfort in the tense muscles. Therefore, the posture quickly becomes a stoop again, since there are no painful sensations in this position, ”says Anton Surnov.

The doctor explains that it is important to influence the muscles in such a way as to relieve tension and restore their work – with the help of massage, physiotherapy, manual therapy, exercise therapy. A correctly selected complex often leads to the fact that posture changes without additional efforts and reminders.

Do posture belts and corsets work?

Everything is not so simple here. Experts say that while they do neutralize the muscles, they do nothing to strengthen those that support our “verticality” and relax those that are tense when the person slouches. As a result, as soon as the belt or corset is removed, the body returns to its original position.

Exercises for correct posture

Although sport is really the head of everything, the gym alone, unfortunately, will not be able to completely neutralize the effect of improper sitting (or standing). Studies have shown that women who regularly exercise sit in the same way as their “counterparts” who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

The good news: the scientific community agrees that the best solution to the problem is to move more during the day. Ideally, you need to get up and walk, but even the banal fidgeting in the chair and the constant change in the position of the legs will be more useful than nothing.

With regard to specific exercises, doctors advise the omnipotent bridge and bar. Because when it comes to strengthening the muscles that promote healthy posture, the emphasis is on the gluteus and back muscles.

And you can also try stretching (imagine that a cord passes through the whole body from the crown to the heels, which pulls you up – you need to reach for it, but not stand on tiptoes and try to keep your back straight) or bring your shoulder blades down with your shoulders down (lingering in this position for 5-6 seconds and repeating the exercise 4-5 times).

“At any age, it is beneficial to strengthen the muscular structure of the back to maintain posture and spine health. It is also important to do stretching, relieve tension in the back, and develop flexibility. If you already have back problems, first of all you need to see a neurologist. Since physical exertion through pain, of course, will not be useful, but will only aggravate the manifestation of the disease, ”comments Elena Belenko.

And by the way, wear comfortable low-heeled shoes. It is true that high heels put additional stress on muscles and harm posture, so they should only be worn on special occasions.

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