The Long-Term Effects of Bad Posture

What are the effects of bad posture at work? We delve into the long-term damage caused and reveal ways to remedy it – starting with your choice in footwear.  

You’ve probably seen the grotesque hunched model office worker called Emma by now. Made by scientists, she’s got a hunched back, swollen limbs and bloodshot eyes.

The model was created as a warning to all professionals with bad posture in the workplace. With conclusive evidence suggesting that we could all start looking like Emma in just 20 years unless we buck our ideas up and get our bad posture under control.

Bad posture in the workplace Emma doll

Those with bad posture often find themselves spending long periods of time slouched down gazing at a screen. It’s a worrying trend that’s becoming increasingly more problematic in this digital age we live in.

Common long-term effects of bad posture

In the survey conducted for the Future report, researchers found a number of health-related issues professionals are worried about or are currently experiencing.

According to the Future report, the biggest health condition affecting office workers in the UK is strained eyes (50%) and a sore back (49%).

Just behind the top two is headaches (48%), a stiff neck (45%) and sore wrists (30%), with stiff legs (23%) and sore ankles (13%) also featuring in the list.

Most of which are the after-effects of bad posture and incorrect spinal alignment. Maybe people do not associate leg/ankle pain or headaches to the spine however an unaligned pelvis and neck can be a vital cause of these ailments.  

In regards to bad posture, most of these issues can be improved by sitting up straight and adjusting the desk so it keeps you comfortable all day long.

Behavioural Futurist William Higham says, “The Work Colleague of the Future report shows that employers and workers really need to act now and address the problem of poor workplace health”.

“Unless we make radical changes to our working lives, such as moving more, addressing our posture at our desks, taking regular walking breaks or considering improving our workstation setup, our offices are going to make us sick.”

And the stats don’t lie. In a 2017 article, research revealed that poor posture when sitting at desks is one of the most common bad habits of UK workers, with it being noted as a major contributing factor of presenteeism.  

The question is, how can you improve bad posture?

Exercises for bad posture

Exercises for bad posture

Let’s explore some of the main reasons behind bad posture and how you can go about fixing them before it turns into a long-term issue.

  • Slouching in your chair – if you don’t feel comfortable sitting up straight, you need to strengthen your core, buttock and back muscles by doing bridges, back extensions and planks.
  • Sitting or standing with your shoulders slumped forward – this is usually caused by muscle imbalances which makes your body adopt strange positions or spending too long sitting at the desk. If you don’t sort this out, your head will start to lean your neck and head forwards like the Emma doll. Like how your mother used to say "if the wind changes your face will stay like that" - It's exactly the same with posture. Bad posture for a prolonged amount of time will cause spinal subluxations which may take a considerable amount of time to readjust. Try strengthening your core, buttocks, neck and rear shoulder muscles via planks, side-lying leg raises, chest stretches, seated rows in a gym and back extensions.
  • Poking your chin – this can be caused by sitting too low, setting your screen too low, having a hunched back or a combination of them all. The best exercises for bad posture in this scenario is to gently lengthen your neck upwards as you tuck in your chin and to bring your shoulder blades down and back towards your spine.
  • Cradling your phone – if you position your phone between your head and shoulder when talking to someone, this can cause long-term bad posture and neck pain due to the creation of a muscle imbalance and spinal subluxation. You should either start holding your phone upright in front of your face (not great for privacy but fabulous for the spine) or do more neck stretches/rotations after phone use. Another handy tip is to not hold your phone low for long periods of time, make sure to have regular breaks.

Wearing the right footwear

According to a recent article, wearing certain shoes can affect your posture too. You see, when you walk, you put the force of five times your body weight on each of your feet.

If your shoes can’t absorb the pressure and are highly unsupportive, you could start developing heel pain, sore joints and ankle alignment problems. It can also impact your spine too, which then leads to both back and foot pain.

These things are all interlinked with the Future report and the model of Emma. To avoid bad posture, you need to work out whether you have flat, high or medium arches. The best way to do this is to see your local biomechanist or podiatrist.

They can recommend certain insoles and shoes to get.

However, if you want to save yourself time, we highly recommend wearing well-crafted shoes that support your feet – like our Percy Stride Oxfords.

Always avoid wearing flip-flops and high-heels when possible. You can learn more about what the healthiest shoes are for feet in our recent blog.

If you suffer from a foot condition which affects footwear selection please see our FREE foot care guides available here. We have looked at conditions such as wide/narrow feet as well as diabetes, arthritis and plantar fasciitis; what shoes and services are available for your needs and how to manage your condition.

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