Updated: Aug 3
An article about slouching and what it actually means to your health.
What is slouching? Slouching is effectively turning off your system, letting your muscles relax but allowing yourself to collapse.
What actually happens anatomically when you are slouching?
When slouching, the spine is curved unnaturally (your centre of gravity is displaced) forces accumulate on specific areas, neck or middle or lower areas. Once more the whole system of muscles that are activated into a suspended, springy support (if you use yourself well) are also compromised so that you require more muscular effort to keep yourself upright and on balance. This in turn puts more pressure on 'parts' of you, notably the spine.
In the picture above the girl's back is rounded putting stretches and forces on the muscles and ligaments. These can build up and cause back pain. If the pain is heeded and taken as a warning sign (see post) and suitably treated it should not usually be a problem as long as the habit of slouching does not continue.
However very often the slouching habit continues until the pressure builds up in the discs wearing away the protective cartilage, creating bone spurs squeezing nerves and ligaments that lead to injury. I won't take time to discuss the injuries here as there are already countless sites and studies available. What seems to be an area of misunderstanding is how we can avoid getting to this point.
What are the dangers of slouching? There are no dangers of slouching per se. However, if you habitually slouch, then you are putting forces on particular parts notably the back. Not only are these forces more than normal and focused on specific parts of the spine, but they are repetitive since it is your habit to stand or sit like that. The accumulation of these three conditions create back aches, pain and possible injury.
Everyone is different so that someone can hurt themselves by slouching for a short period of time yet another who has the same habit may be able to live most of their lives without major harm. Rather risky to wait to find out which you are though!
How to avoid injury
If you try not to slouch what do you do? Very often people pull themselves up straight into a held and relatively fixed stance. After all if you think you slouch intentionally, then you can 'unslouch' which often means to straighten up......doesn't it? As I said before, when standing up 'straight' people define this as puffing their chest up and holding themselves in this 'position'. (see post on posture)
In fact they are actually tensing their whole upper torso which effects breathing as much as other functions, pulling their back muscles down and squeezing the muscles and discs in the spine and becoming a solid statue full of tension and holding and effort.
So is there an in-between state? If so how do we find it?
Keep posted for the answers coming soon!