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There are several examples of bad posture and there are different ways to improve them.
You may not know it, but bad posture can affect more than your appearance while sitting or standing. The spine can dictate much of your mental and physical well-being, and if it is misaligned enough, it can cause far greater problems than discomfort or laziness. This extra stress is a chain reaction, going from the joints to the ligaments and tendons, as well as the muscles and nerves in that region, which causes your problems.
The first step in improving posture is to identify what you need to improve by examining your posture during the day, such as sitting in an office chair, carrying things around, or queuing up. At regular intervals throughout the day, take a moment to mentally check your posture.
Because there are many causes and examples of bad posture, this check should be done during a normal day. This will help to better identify the times and positions that generally lead to poor posture.
This article was written to highlight some of the most common examples of bad posture that occur more frequently.
The following examples are common behaviors and poor ergonomics that require correction to achieve good posture and support:
In this article, we will be focusing on the examples of bad posture as it relates to static standing alignment, leaving the sitting and sleeping posture for another time. But first, let us look at what bad bad posture is.
Bad posture is the posture that results from the tightening or shortening of certain muscles while others lengthen and weaken, which often occurs due to your daily activities.
I think it is important to note that almost nobody has perfect posture. Poor posture in all its forms is incredibly common.
There are many reasons why many of us have poor postural alignment. Some problems can be congenital (problems with which we were born). Others are the result of compensation after old injuries or even due to illness. However, more often than not, our misalignment has been caused by positions that we adopt within the framework of our profession and/or our lifestyle.
Over the years, doctors have attempted to identify and classify the types of problems. This has been very helpful as it has helped in passing information to therapists, helping them handle postural misalignments better.
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In addition to naming different problems, the experts were able to identify which structures (muscles, ligaments) are long or short in each type of posture. I have included some of this information below.
Keep in mind that not all people with bad posture fit these models. When it comes to lengthening and shortening muscles, not all the cases are the same.
People will often have a combination of problems. For example, people with swayback or lordosis generally have kyphosis too.
As mentioned earlier, muscle length is not the only factor contributing to postural misalignment. Connective tissue, joint mobility, and anatomical variations, such as bone shape and bad habits, can also play an important role.
I also think it is important not to get bogged down in the details of the long and short muscles. All that really matters is what solves the problem and what doesn’t.
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In the Sway Back pose, the pelvis is level (not tilted) and moves forward (offset forward). While Sway Back may look a lot like hyperlordosis, there is one important difference. A person with hyperlordosis will have an increase in the curve of his lower spine (lumbar spine). Whereas someone with Sway Back will actually have a flattened lumbar spine. In fact, the pelvis is level (not tilted) and simply moves forward. There is also usually a degree of kyphosis.
Muscles possibly shortened: internal oblique, rectus abdominis, and hamstrings.
Muscles possibly elongated: lower erector spinae, external oblique, and gastrocnemius.
Kyphosis is an increase in the normal curve of the thoracic spine. The shoulder blades are often further away from each other and the head is supported on the front carriage. In rare cases, kyphosis can be caused by Scheuermann’s disease, nutritional deficiencies, or even be congenital.
However, most of the time this is only due to bending or the result of another postural imbalance. Yes, kyphosis often goes hand in hand with “hyperlordosis” and “Swayback”. Many times one of these two positions is the cause of kyphosis.
Shortened muscles: Latissimus Dorsi.
Elongated muscles: Upper Erector Spinae
Lordosis is one of the examples of bad posture. The term lordosis refers to the normal curvature of the lower spine (lumbar spine). However, when most people talk about lordosis, they actually mean an increase in this curve (hyperlordosis). This is usually caused by a forward pelvic tilt (anterior tilt) which increases the curve of the spine. The anterior suprailiac spine (ASIS) will be forward and opposite the pubis synthesis and will be significantly lower than the posterior suprailiac spine (PSIS). People with hyperlordosis usually have kyphosis. This is because everything at the top and bottom must adapt to the position of the pelvis and lower back.
Muscles possibly shortened: Lower erector spinae, Latissimus Dorsi, Quadratus Lumborum, posterior fibers of the internal oblique, Psoas major and Illacus (hip flexors), Sartorius, Rectus Femoris, and Tensor Facia Latae.
Muscles possibly elongated: Rectus abdominis, external oblique, anterior fibers of the internal oblique, gluteus maximus and hamstrings.
One of the examples of bad posture is scoliosis. Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal twist or lateral curvature of the spine (back view). The height of the shoulders or hips can also be uneven. There are two main types of scoliosis: “congenital” (someone was born with it) or “idiopathic” (the cause is unknown).
With congenital scoliosis, there are often abnormalities around the rib cage, such as a lump or concave depression. Sometimes a bump can be behind a shoulder blade which can cause it to move away (protrude). If someone was not born with the disease, they must have acquired it somehow. Often the spine comes to adapt to behavior. If someone sits on one hip with their legs on one side long enough, their spine will adjust to the position.
The same can be said for people who are not lucky enough to have a job where they have to constantly bend over or turn in one direction (think of workers in the production line, checkout staff, installers of carpet). Even carrying a baby on one hip, if done long enough, will affect the alignment of the hips and spine.
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In many cases, acquired scoliosis has developed because another part of the body is not aligned. A flattened arch of a foot effectively shortens one leg, which tilts the pelvis to one side, affecting the spine.
I also look at the “real” leg length difference (a difference in bone length) as it is acquired. It is true that the leg length gap was congenital. However, when the person was born, his spine was straight. It wasn’t until they started walking that they got scoliosis.
As for the muscles that lengthen or shorten, each case is unique. Almost every muscle in the body can be affected. There will be shortened muscles inside a curve and elongated muscles outside a curve. The same goes for a rotation, an oblique muscle can be lengthened and the reverse can be shortened.
Rather than determining which muscles are long or short, I think it is more important at the outset to determine the true cause of the problem.
The flat back pose is almost like a softened version of Sway Back. Again, the pelvis is level and slightly moved forward. Unlike Swayback, there is no kyphosis.
Muscles possibly shortened: rectus abdominis and hamstrings.
Muscles possibly elongated: erector of the lower spine.
Pelvic misalignment manifests itself in several different ways. It can come as an imbalance of the pelvic height with or without rotation.
In addition to the problems around the pelvis, pelvic misalignment can also have a ripple effect on another part of the body. In some cases, the pelvic misalignment may have been caused by a problem in one of these areas. It is also not uncommon for someone with this type of problem to also have some degree of “scoliosis”.
Like scoliosis, the underlying cause of pelvic misalignment is often complex and specific to an individual.
Pelvic misalignment is one of the examples of bad posture and here are some of its characteristics.
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Firstly, there will be a difference in pelvic height on one side, that is, one anterior suprailiac spine will be lower than the other anterior suprailiac spine.
The pelvis may have been tilted forward from one side. If this is the case, the anterior suprailiac spine will be significantly lower than the Posterior suprailiac spine on the affected side.
The entire pelvis may have rotated horizontally (the transverse plane). In short, one side of the pelvis will be more distant than the other.
Often, all of these problems arise together. However, from time to time, people have only one of the above signs.
One of the most common examples of bad posture is forward head posture. In this posture, the head is held in front of the body. This increases lordosis (curvature) of the neck. The forward head posture is often seen alongside kyphosis, upper crossed syndrome, and medially rotated arm. It can also be a sign of osteoporosis.
Muscles possibly shortened: all the muscles which extend the upper neck, flex the lower neck and extend the head: raising scapula, upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitis, semispinalis capitis, capitis longissimus, anterior/medial scalene muscles occipital.
Muscles possibly elongated: all the muscles which flex the upper neck, extend the lower neck and retract the head: Semispinalis Cervicis, Splenius Cervicis, Longissimus Cervicis, Rectus Capitis Anterior, Longus Capitis, Suprahyoid.
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This is another one of the many examples of bad posture. In this stance, the arms are turned inward with the backs of the hands forward. The thumbs should be facing forward. Medially rotated arms often go hand in hand with upper crossed syndrome (see below). If this is the case, some of the same muscles will shorten or lengthen.
The weight of people can play a role. If a person is very overweight, the angle of their arms on their sides will be affected. If this person tried to put his shoulder in the right position, his body would get in the way. To solve this problem, the shoulder blades separate (remove), which gives the impression that the arms are turned medially.
Possibly shortened muscles: pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, major round, and subscapularis.
Muscles possibly elongated: teres minor and infraspinatus.
There are times when the arms are always rotated medially even when the position of the shoulders has been corrected. If this is the case, the muscles of the forearm or even the upper arm are most likely to blame.
One of the examples of bad posture is the upper crossed syndrome. It was first invented by a therapist named Dr. Vladimir Janda in the 1980s. The shoulders are rounded forward, and the head is often held in front of the body.
Dr. Janda has classified the following muscles as shortened (and facilitated) or lengthened (and inhibited). Facilitated muscles simply mean the muscles are active while when we talk about inhibited muscles, we refer to those who are under active.
Below is the list of the shortened and elongated list made by Dr. Janda:
Shortened and facilitated muscles: thoracic muscles (major and minor pectorals), sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius, and levator scapula.
Elongated and inhibited muscles: deep cervical flexors (neck), lower trapezius and anterior serrate.
As mentioned in the introduction to this article, not all misaligned people fit these models. In this case, I actually find that the upper trapezius is often inhibited. In fact, if the shoulder blades are abducted, that is, more than 3 inches from the spine, the entire trapezius could lengthen and be inhibited. Also, the Rhomboids can also lengthen.
With rounded shoulders and forward, traps and rhomboids cannot work properly. This causes other muscles to take over during many daily movements.
People with upper crossed syndrome often also have medially rotated arms.
One of the examples of bad posture is the winged shoulder blades. This simply means that the shoulder blades are not pressing against the rib cage. The inner edge of the shoulder blades will protrude significantly.
Winging refers to the entire protruding inner edge, not just the bottom corner. If it’s just the bottom corner, then a minor pec is the main culprit.
In rare cases, a winged scapula may have been caused by damage to the long thoracic nerve. However, most of the time this is due to bad habits and incorrect stiffness or passive muscle length.
Muscles possibly shortened: thoracic muscles (major and minor pectorals), biceps and latissimus dorsi.
Muscles possibly elongated: medium/lower trapezius and anterior serrate.
Depending on the rotation of the arms, the muscle length of the deltoid and the rotator cuff may also be affected.
A depressed shoulder has the scapula sitting lower than it should be. A person with this problem may appear to have a long neck.
In its normal position, the upper part of the medial edge must be at T2 level (the second thoracic vertebra downwards). The lower part of the shoulder blades should be the same height as T7 (the seventh thoracic vertebra down).
The collarbone, instead of descending downward from the arm to the chest which is the norm will do the opposite which is moving uphill or being flat. A shoulder can be classified as depressed if the rotation alignment of the scapula is normal and the shoulder is less than T2-T7.
Muscles possibly shortened: chest muscles (major and minor pectorals) and latissimus dorsi.
Muscles possibly elongated: upper trapezius and anterior serrate.
It’s the opposite of a depressed shoulder. Someone with this type of posture will be locked in a permanent shrug. I usually find that only one shoulder is lifted. This is another complicated one, so here is a summary of the normal position of the shoulder.
As mentioned here, the normal positioning of the shoulder girdle is as follows:
The medial edge of the scapula spine should be about 3 inches from the thoracic spine and closer to the spine than the underside of the scapula blade.
The height of the shoulder blades should be between T2 (the second thoracic vertebra down) and T7 (the seventh thoracic vertebra down).
The collarbone should descend slightly from the arm towards the chest.
If the scapula is high, the upper part of the median border will be above T2 and the lower part will be higher than T7. The collarbone will also work more than it should. This is where it gets complicated. The rotation of the scapula and the distance from the spine determine which muscles are short or long.
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If the medial border of the spine of the scapula is high, the levator scapula will be short. Note: the scapula may appear to be facing downward. The difference is that, in this case, the upper part of the middle border is above T2.
If the entire scapula is raised, the upper trapezius will be shortened. If this is the case, the collarbone will be stiffer than it should be from the arm to the chest.
If the entire scapula is raised and closer to the spine than 3 inches, then the levator scapula, upper trapezius and rhomboid will all be short.
The downward rotation of the shoulder blades is one of the examples of bad posture. A downward rotation means that the lower angle of the scapula is closer to the spine than the upper medial border.
Usually, the whole shoulder falls slightly and rests lower than the ribs should be. The collarbone will work uphill or flat, instead of descending downward from the arm to the chest.
If a shoulder blade is lowered, the arm will not hang in its normal position. The side of the body will have locked the arm to maintain correct alignment. This means that there will be an increased angle between the scapula and the arm. When the position of the scapula is corrected, the person’s arm is often hung from their side (abducted). This is because the shoulder muscles have adapted to the position of the scapula and have been shortened.
It’s much more common than most people think. A person with a downward scapula often has shoulder pain or may have nervous problems in the hand or arm (Thoracic outlet syndrome).
Muscles possibly shortened: thoracic muscles (major and minor pectorals), levator scapula, rhomboids, deltoids, supraspinatus, latissimus dorsi, and sometimes lower trapezius.
Muscles possibly elongated: upper trapezius, anterior serratus and sometimes infraspinatus/lesser round.
Someone with duck feet has feet that turn outward and do not face forward. One foot outside flattens the arch. This, in turn, reduces the amount of shock absorption we have when we run.
Having a flattened arch also effectively reduces the length of the leg. This can affect the whole body. People with duck feet are also more likely to suffer from knee, hip and back injuries.
However, this bad posture can originate from the hips. knees or ankles.
If the problem starts at the hip, the entire leg will be turned outward (the knees will point outward slightly). Typically, deep external hip rotators, such as Piriformis, will be short. Larger buttock muscles, like the maximus gluteus, will often be underutilized.
Although the knee is generally classified as an articulated joint, it does have a certain degree of rotation. Sometimes the femoral biceps which is one of the hamstrings at the back of the upper leg can be shortened. This causes the tibia to rotate outward.
The problem can also be caused by a lack of range of motion in the ankle. If the foot/ankle joints do not move enough, a person will rotate the foot to walk. It can also be caused by tense muscles. If the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are short, the range of motion of the ankle will be reduced. The body often follows the path of least resistance and makes us move.
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Most of the time, this problem is caused by habit and is more common in men. However, there are bone abnormalities that cause this problem. If someone has a retroverted hip (the neck of the femur is twisted out of normal alignment), then they will rotate the foot outward to put the hip joint in a better position. There is also a condition known as an external tibial torsion that can also cause someone to have a duck foot.
Now that you have read all the examples of bad posture discussed here, you should at least know how to correct your bad posture if you have any.
Correcting poor posture can be difficult to achieve by simply sitting differently or abandoning old habits. You really need to target the muscles that have been neglected to facilitate the transition to proper posture. The two best exercises that can restore your flexibility and strength are yoga and pilates. These low impact exercises are great for realigning your spine safely and effectively.
Yoga poses are great for tackling lower back pain and postural problems related to the neck, while Pilates is the best exercise for strengthening the lower back, hips and upper body. Weak central muscles contribute to most poor posture. Pilates targets all muscles and offers much better support to the joints and, above all, to the spine.
Good posture is not only good for physical health but also for emotional health. Good posture makes you look good and you feel good about yourself. Some people say that good posture will even improve your chemical balance because the spine can transmit and receive signals to the brain much more precisely.
Let me emphasize, it is not everybody that corresponds to the listed models. This is the reason why I have used terms like ‘muscles probably elongated/shortened‘ throughout this article. Please never assume that a muscle is short or long just because it is in the list above.
Body misalignment has many causes and the cases are often unique. If you are concerned about your posture, I recommend that you consult a physiotherapist) to have it checked. At the very least, they should be able to assess your body’s alignment and tell you what is really short, long or which is not working in the best way.
I also recommend that you read our article on how to keep a straight posture in order to help you maintain the proper, upright posture.