Why Is Bad Posture So Bad?

by Dr. Wendy Schauer, D.C., R.K.C. on April 10, 2012

Sitting at a computer is one of the worst things you can do for your back.  Even with great posture, sitting puts the most amount of pressure on the discs in the lower back.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen to many people with great posture.  Take a look at your co-worker in the next cubicle.  I would bet they don’t have the best posture.  The typical computer posture looks like this:

Bad Work Posture

     1.  The head is forward – looks like the head is sliding off the body.

     2.  The shoulders are slumped forward.

     3.  The upper back is rounded into a small or, for some people, a large C.

           If they have really bad posture then they will also have:

     4.  Slumped lower back also putting it  into a C.

A posture like this is almost guaranteed to cause, at the very least,  neck or back pain. 

The human head weighs about 8 pounds but for every inch of forward translation 10 pounds are added to it.   Picture yourself at the bowling alley holding an 18 pound ball outstretched with your arms.  How long would you be able to hold the ball without your arms getting painful, cramping or tired?  Probably not too long.  But for some reason you are expecting your muscles at the base of the neck (arms) to hold your head (bowling ball) for 8 hours a day.  These muscles are being overstretched and overused all day long.  That is why they hurt at the end of the day.  Over time this posture may lead to altered movement in the neck, disc degeneration(wearing down of the disc), arthritis and, at the worst, pinched nerves.

Your slumped shoulders eventually cause tightness in the front of the chest(pectorals) and weakness in the upper back between the shoulder blades.  This leads to muscle imbalance and will cause the shoulders to be misaligned in the shoulder joint.  One false move and you may end up getting shoulder impingement.  I have had several patient have shoulder surgery due to the tendons tearing from rubbing over the misaligned bones for years on end.  Seems silly to have an “injury” from sitting but it happens way too often.

The C-shaped curve in the  lower back will first cause muscle tightness in the hip flexors, weakness in the back, loss of mobility in the spine and pain.  If left untreated it may progress to  disc degeneration, arthritis and pinched nerves.

Having proper posture is so much more that just looking good, it is will save the health of your spine.  My next blog will give you stretches to do while at your desk to help with posture.

Yours In Health!

Dr. Wendy

Lyle R. Johnson April 10, 2012 at 8:22 PM

Fantastic Idea.

Looking forward to learning how you will manifest it.

I know you will excel; as you normally do in such matters.

Supporting your goal achievement … Lyle

Neil Dhawan April 10, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Hi Dr. Wendy,

Okay, how many people reading your article just sat up a little straighter? … I did! I am REALLY looking forward to your next post as I am constantly rotating my neck and moving my shoulders towards the ceiling and hearing the good ol’ “snap, crackle, pop”.

To a Successful Life, Neil
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shane April 10, 2012 at 11:18 PM

Yeah after working on the computer a bit I usually do a bridge or similar stretch to try and rebalance.

And yes I am sitting up a bit straighter right now!

Body language of men’s clothes April 11, 2012 at 12:09 AM

Wendy, I think that all desks should be equiped with lounge chairs.
Scott Sylvan Bell
Body language of clothes
Now go implement!

Michael D Walker April 11, 2012 at 2:29 AM

The photo says it all! Great example to make your key points. Too bad more places don’t go to the trouble of making computer workstations more ergonomic. Good thing you’re going to show us some stretches to help alleviate the problems this causes!

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Annie Born April 11, 2012 at 2:52 AM

I will need to sit up straighter after reading this blog!
Looking forward to tomorrow!
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Sonya Lenzo April 11, 2012 at 7:45 AM

Like others above, I straightened my posture as I read this! But I do have a fairly erogonomic arrangement (its that or constant neck pain) and I take frequent breaks. As my doctor told me when I was on the computer too long…your body is not a machine!!!

Sonya Lenzo

Suzanne Laramoe April 11, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Hmmm…I wonder if this could be the cause of the pain my son occassionally gets in his upper trapezius muscle? I’m sending him this article.



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Jennifer April 11, 2012 at 1:57 PM

I really like that we have a yoga ball at work. We take turns bouncing on it and laying back on it to stretch our chests and bellies. It’s nice to have a change from our office chairs. Can’t wait to see the stretches you recommend!

G.E. Moon II April 11, 2012 at 2:04 PM

This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Straighten Up!”

Yours In Health!

G.E. Moon II

Eva Palmer April 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM

As soon as I saw the picture I realized that i was seating exactly like that person!
Thanks for the reminding of the importance of having a good posture doctor Schauer.

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Margarita April 11, 2012 at 5:48 PM

I wish I could follow the advice of having a better posture. I have scoliosis and when I think about my posture, i can correct it for a minute or two. Then I slip into my old body memory, because that’s what it knows. Any suggestions about bridging the conscious and the unconscious minds, in order the latter to remember something new, like my dream upright posture.

Cherie Miranda April 11, 2012 at 10:06 PM

I agree that posture is important. I can’t say I have the best…not even close. However, I find that stretching, working out, massage, and chiropractic adjustments all help. What do you think helps improve posture most?

Cherie Miranda
Meditation on ABC News!

Kevin Hogan April 11, 2012 at 11:30 PM

I have been trying to work on proper sitting posture while I am on my computer, and it seems to be getting better.

Is there anything we can do to have a better realization of our body position and what to do to correct it?

Kevin Hogan

Promotional Expert For
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Annie Born April 12, 2012 at 3:17 AM

Excercises to do at my desk!
What an awesome idea!
Looking forward to tomorrow!
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Sabrina April 12, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Absolutely GREAT information. I see so many people with terrible posture every day. I spend most of my time with my clients correcting their postural compensations and it’s wonderful when they are able to feel when they are out of alignment and correct themselves!

Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES
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rachel April 12, 2012 at 2:01 PM

I was definitely slunched in a bad way when I read this post. This is a great reminder to keep a better eye on the way I sit at my desk!

Jc MacKenzie April 12, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Looking forward to this thread, especially the desk stretches tomorrow. Lord knows I spend way to much time slumped over a desk.

Be Well


Beth April 12, 2012 at 6:46 PM

I KNEW it……I’ve been sitting in a sea of cubicles loaded with bowling balls!

Lyle R. Johnson April 12, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Great beginning

Look forward to next posture and health article

Live Long and Prosper

Singles Dating Coach for Women April 14, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Hi Dr. Wendy,

I love the photo you posed for there displaying our typical seated posture while we are interacting with our laptop and computers. I have friends here in Orange County SoCal who started the TOS Society. What are your thoughts about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? Do you see a lot of that in your practice?

Happy Dating and Relationships,

April Braswell
Singles Dating Workshops Los Angeles

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