How Poor Posture Affects Your Health and Athletic Performance
How Poor Posture Affects Your Health and Athletic Performance
The human body is designed to move efficiently. If your joints are not moving optimally, then it will cause pain. Pain can result from a variety of causes such as muscle strain or tendonitis.
When muscles are tight they produce less force than when relaxed. Tightness in other parts of the body can also contribute to poor athletic performance because these areas do not have enough range of motion to perform their functions properly (1).
Poor posture is one of the most common reasons why athletes suffer injuries. An athlete’s head, neck, shoulders and back must all be in proper alignment for them to perform at their best. A weak core prevents an athlete from performing well even if they are healthy.
Weak abdominal muscles prevent an athlete from burning fat while running or lifting weights (2). Weak hamstrings prevent an athlete from pulling away from a pull up bar (3). Weak glutes prevent an athlete from squatting down hard enough to lift heavy things (4). Weak hip flexors prevent an athlete from bending over far enough to complete a full lunge (5). Weak quads prevent an athlete from jumping high enough to reach the top of a ladder without falling off (6).
When you have poor posture, your spine is forced into a position where it cannot support its own weight.
You get hurt!
The Most Common Types of Injuries
Poor posture is a common cause of back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain. Poor posture also results in stress fractures in the ribs, shin splints in the legs and plantar fasciitis in the feet (4). The effects of poor posture on these athletic injuries are well-documented.
There are multiple theories about the root causes of back pain, including:
The most popular is the “weakened core” theory. This theory holds that a weak core makes it difficult to transfer forces exerted on the body through muscular contractions to stabilize the spine. When these forces are not stabilized by the core, they end up being taken up by the spinal column instead (1).
The “abnormal movement” theory. This theory holds that the root cause of back pain is when the spinal column is forced into an abnormal position. It doesn’t matter how strong a core is if it is not used properly (2).
The “Inflammatory” theory. This theory holds that there is no single cause for back pain but that it is caused by inflammation in the soft tissue surrounding the spine (3).
In terms of shoulders, there are two types of shoulder injuries that are affected by poor posture. The first type is where the clavicle (collarbone) is not “held down” by the muscles in the shoulder and upper back so it becomes a free-floating bone susceptible to injury (4). The other type involves damage to the rotator cuff, which consists of four tendons that allow the shoulder blade to move in conjunction with the arm.
The main cause of rotator cuff injuries is weakness in the muscles that move the shoulder blade (5).
Sprains and strains are by far the most common type of injury for shin splints (6). This type of injury happens when a muscle, tendon or ligament is stretched beyond normal limits, resulting in damage to the fibres.
Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that stretches from the heel to the ball of the foot. Each time you take a step, your foot plants on the ground and the force is transferred back through the plantar fascia. Over time, this action can cause microtears in the plantar fascia, leading to pain (7).
A few different types of footwear are necessary to deal with all these postural issues, including:
Heels. High heels are not just a fashion faux pas. They also wreak havoc on your posture due to the unnatural angle they create at the ankle (8).
Think about how piggyback riders want to stand up when being carried on someone’s back. Their feet want to be level with their hips in order to balance properly. High heels cause the foot to point upwards and the ankle to angle inwards, forcing the calf and thigh to work harder to keep balance. This fatigues the muscles quickly and throws off your posture.
Now that we know how poor posture affects our health and athletic performance, let’s figure out exactly why it is so common today.
The most common cause is sitting. Sitting causes muscles to shorten and can lead to the development of bad posture (1). Today, most of us are desk jockeys that don’t get any exercise throughout the day.
This is especially true for millennials, who now have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due largely in part to sedentary lifestyles (12).
By far the biggest culprit is the smart phone. Thanks to social media, we’re constantly connected and feel compelled to check our phones every few minutes to see what’s going on in the world.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Therapy of poor posture in adolescents: sensorimotor training increases the effectiveness of strength training to reduce increased anterior pelvic tilt (O Ludwig, M Fröhlich, E Schmitt – Cogent Medicine, 2016 – cogentoa.com)
- Perceptions of causes of performance-related injuries by music health experts and injured violinists (BJ Ackerman, RD Adams – Perceptual and motor skills, 2004 – journals.sagepub.com)
- Does core strength training influence running kinetics, lower-extremity stability, and 5000-M performance in runners? (K Sato, M Mokha – The Journal of Strength & Conditioning …, 2009 – cdn.journals.lww.com)
- Circadian rhythms, athletic performance, and jet lag. (R Manfredini, F Manfredini, C Fersini… – British journal of sports …, 1998 – bjsm.bmj.com)
- Integrative training for children and adolescents: techniques and practices for reducing sports-related injuries and enhancing athletic performance (GD Myer, AD Faigenbaum, DA Chu… – The Physician and …, 2011 – Taylor & Francis)
- Sports injuries related to flexibility, posture, acceleration, clinical defects, and previous injury, in high-level players of body contact sports (AWS Watson – International journal of sports medicine, 2001 – thieme-connect.com)
- Applied anatomy and biomechanics in sport (TR Ackland, B Elliott, J Bloomfield – 2009 – books.google.com)