7 Myths About Bad Posture—and How to Fix It
Correct your posture, and you'll feel a huge difference from head to toe
Fact or fiction? Chicago-based chiropractic physician Richard Arrandt, D.C. is here to dispell some bad-posture myths. Here's the truth about everything from lower back pain to TMJ, and what you can do to fix bad posture.
Myth: Slouching only makes you look bad—it can't actually cause long-term damage.
Reality: This is pure fiction. The effects of bad posture are many, and can actually be really serious. "When people slouch, their heads come forward. Slouching also forces the shoulders to come forward. This leads to jaw pains and headaches, and to shoulder and back pains," says Arrandt. (Hellooo, texting posture.) "Additionally, if the mechanics of your spine are not aligning properly, it can affect your rib cage, which can damage your heart and lungs, and lead to gastrointestinal issues." (ICYMI, Kayla Itsines recommends these exercises to combat bad posture.)
Myth: Crossing your legs will give you varicose veins.
Reality: This is not entirely true, but crossing your legs does have some negative consequences. "Crossing the legs leads to lower pack pain," says Arrandt. "Crossing one leg over the other leads to increased pressure, and if your vein systems are closer to the surface, they will certainly show up more prominently. Spider veins are more common in women than in men because of crossing the legs." (Related: Does Weightlifting Cause Varicose Veins?)
Myth: Clenching your jaw will give you TMJ.
Reality: Fact! You already know that a clenched jaw gives away your anxieties. But it can actually lead to much more serious problems as well. "Clenched jaws and grinding teeth increases the tensions in the temporomandibular joint (the TMJ or jaw joint) and creates tension," says Arrandt. "This wears the joint and can also lead to headaches, neck pain, and upper back pain." (Related: How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth)
Myth: There’s nothing you can do to mitigate the effects of bad posture.
Reality: This is absolutely untrue. "Slouching is natural if you're not ergonomically correct, but there are exercises that you can do to counter the effects of slouching," says Arrandt. He recommends weight workouts and stretches that focus on the neck, shoulders, and back. (Try this strength training workout for perfect posture.)
Myth: Bad posture is genetic.
Reality: Bad posture can be genetic, but that doesn't mean it's completely out of your hands. Tightening and strengthening your core—that is, the center of your body, including the deep abdominal muscles and the muscles closest to the spine—can help improve your posture, making it easier for you to sit (and stand) up straight. (Better posture is just one of the amazing benefits of having a strong core that have nothing to do with aesthetics.) A good Pilates class will teach you the exercises you need to develop this deep core strength.
Myth: Bad posture leads to scoliosis.
Reality: False. According to Arrandt, most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, meaning they stem from an unknown cause, but there is no known link between posture and scoliosis. However, scoliosis only includes side-to-side curves. There are also curves in the front-to-back plane of the spine, and these can be increased or decreased as a result of hunching and slumping, so sit up straight!
Myth: Working in front of a computer all day is ruining your posture.
Reality: Yes, this is true. Sitting in front of a computer all day can force you to jut your neck forward and hunch your shoulders. "If you're not ergonomically correct, you will wind up with back and neck pain," says Arrandt. To counter these effects and prevent bad posture, push for ergonomically designed desk chairs at work. If you spend a lot of time on the phone at work, ask for a headset, so your neck muscles will not contract unevenly. And finally, take breaks to walk around the office and stretch. (Up Next: 9 Things You Can Do for Your Body at Work...Besides Buy a Standing Desk)