You Probably Have Bad Posture [Here’s How to Tell]

This post may contain affiliate links: meaning we may receive a commission if you use them

Do I Have Bad Posture?

If you are 20 years or older, you probably have bad posture.

Just like diabetes, you may never know until you begin to develop symptoms.

After reading the last post, you will be able to tell if you have bad posture.

Are you ready?

This post will cover:

– What good posture looks like

– The 4 most common signs of bad posture

– 4 simple tests to see if you have any of these bad postures

First A Quick Disclaimer

This post will not be comprehensive, as there are entire textbooks dedicated to the subject of posture.

But I will do my best to cover what you need to know so that you can begin making changes right away.

The best part?

You will realize that most of these bad postures interrelate, and fixing one will usually help fix others. 

Once you become familiar with these postures, it will be easy to identify them and fix them.

First, let’s define what good posture is.

What Does Good Posture Look Like?

Here is what good posture looks like while standing.

good-standing-posture

Proper Standing Posture CheckList

When standing up, you must ensure that

  • Head is in a neutral position and the ear is lined up with the middle of the shoulder joint

  • The middle of the shoulder joint is in line with the ear

  • The upper and lower back are in a neutral position with a natural kyphotic and lordotic curve (slight curves are normal)

  • The middle of the hip is in line with the middle of the shoulder above and the middle of knee joint below

  • Middle of the knee is in line with the middle of the ankle

Proper Sitting Posture Checklist

Proper sitting posture looks almost exactly the same as standing posture.

good-sitting-posture

When sitting down, it is important to ensure that

  • Your head is in a neutral position. Adjust your book/computer/workstation to a height so that you are looking straight ahead and not having to overly extend your neck

  • Your ears should be aligned with the middle of your shoulder joint

  • Your shoulders should be in the middle of their socket and not overly protracted in front of you

  • Your upper and lower back should be in a neutral position. Your kyphotic and lordotic curves should have a slight physiologic curve

  • For your lower body, just ensure that your weight is evenly distributed between your two hips and your feet.

Obviously, these explanations are examples of perfect posture.

It is not possible to be in the perfect position at all times. We must all move around and fidget, whether we are standing or sitting.

The important thing is to try your best and get back to a good neutral position as often as possible.

Ok, so here is where things go wrong.

But first…


Download The PDF

For just $7, you can get a complete summary of this entire blog post PLUS our complete 10-minute posture and mobility routine.

This routine combines high-yield exercises and stretches for both the upper and lower body to target the muscle groups most people need to work on.

Grab yourself a copy today!

Click Here To Get The PDF Now


What Does Bad Posture Look Like?

Okay, so now let’s go over the four most common bad postures.

Bad Posture #1: Forward Head Posture

Forward head posture is exactly what it sounds like.

It refers to the position where your ears do not line up with your shoulders when looking at a side profile.

how-to-tell-if-you-have-bad-posture-forward-head

The forward head is usually a result of another postural inefficiency which we will discuss next known as Rounded Thoracic Spine.

It is also due to not being aware of your neck position when looking at a screen.

When your head is not in line with your shoulders, your neck has to assume a compromised extended position just so that you can see what is in front of you. 

In order to compensate and look straight ahead, your chin will have to poke out, and you will flex the muscles in the back of your neck (which extends your head).

Forward Head Posture Pain Symptoms

Forward head posture places a lot of strain on the muscles of the posterior neck.

As a result, this posture can lead to neck pain, upper back pain, and headaches.

How To Tell if You Have Forward Head Posture

  • If you have pain in the back of your neck, you probably have forward head posture.

  • If you cannot bring your chin to touch your chest while your teeth are clenched- you probably have forward head posture.

  • If the back of your neck isn’t straight when looking from the side- you definitely have forward head posture


Bad Posture #2: Rounded Thoracic Spine (Kyphosis)

Out of all the postural inefficiencies – rounded thoracic spine is probably the most prevalent.

This is because of our sedentary culture that cherishes sitting the majority of the day.  This topic is discussed in detail in our post on prolonged sitting.

how-to-tell-if-you-have-bad-posture-kyphosis

When you sit, you tend to relax a lot of the muscles that would normally be activated when you are standing or moving around.

This includes the abdominal/core muscles as well as the spinal erectors which run vertically along either side of our spine.

When you sit for long periods of time, the muscles of your upper back will become inactivated and lengthened.

The end result is slouching.

If you’re not careful, you can slouch for several hours a day, every day of the week.

The more time your body remains in a certain position, the more likely it will begin to adopt that position as its new norm.

A rounded thoracic spine can result in multiple other postural inefficiencies – forward head posture, decreased shoulder range of motion, and tightening of the muscles in your anterior thorax.

Furthermore, the muscles of your upper back become weak from a lack of use.

Kyphosis Pain Symptoms

A Kyphotic posture leads to pain and stiffness in the upper back and a tendency to strain your anterior shoulders and chest muscles.

In addition, the pronounced curve in the thoracic spine can cause unnecessary wear and tear to your lordotic curve also resulting in low back pain.

How To Tell If You Have A Rounded Thoracic Spine

  • Stand up and have someone take a picture of you directly from the side. (Make sure to not overly compensate your posture, and stand as you would normally). If the middle of your shoulder joint does not line up with the middle of your hip joint vertically, then your probably have a rounded spine.

  • If your kyphotic curve simply looks very pronounced, then you have a rounded thoracic spine.

The Wall Test

  • Stand up against a wall with your feet six inches away from the wall. Can you make three points of contact with your head, upper back, and butt without pushing your head back? If you cannot, you probably have a rounded thoracic spine (as well as forward head posture).

Bad Posture #3: Rounded (Internally Rotated) Shoulders

Internally rotated shoulders can occur independently or in conjunction with a rounded thoracic spine.

In normal anatomy, the shoulder joint should sit in the center of the shoulder socket with equal and opposite forces tugging on it from both anteriorly and posteriorly.

how-to-tell-if-you-have-bad-posture-rounded-shoulders

However, we always focus on our anterior side, or what is in front of us.

Think about how many times your arms are out in front of your body; typing on a computer, writing, cooking, cleaning, or pushing objects.

How often do you perform the opposite task? Tasks that bring your shoulder towards your back, aka pulling movements?

If you’re like most people – the answer is never.

Therefore, the anterior muscles and tendons become significantly stronger (aka they tighten and shorten) than the posterior muscles and tendons.

As a result, your anterior muscles pull the shoulder joint forward in the socket, rotating them in towards the midline (internal rotation).

Rounded Shoulder Pain Symptoms

The rounded shoulder posture deviates your shoulder joints forward out of their sockets.

As a result, this can cause pain in the front of your shoulders, especially when bringing your arms overhead or when you perform exercises such as pushups, bench presses, or even Pullups .

How To Tell If You Have Internally Rotated Shoulders

  • Stand up and grab two pencils. Hold them perpendicularly in your clenched hands so that the lead tips are facing away in front of you. Now, look at the pencils. Which way are they pointing? If they are angled towards each other- you have internally rotated shoulders.

  • Take a picture of your side profile. If you cannot draw a straight vertical line from the back of your ear to the middle of your shoulder joint, you have internally rotated shoulders.

Bad Posture #4: Anterior Pelvic Tilt (Lordosis)

Do you have low back pain? According to the NIH, so do 80% of adults.

Low back pain is extremely complex and can have many different etiologies.  Many people have dedicated their lives to the diagnosis and treatment of low back pain.

Anterior pelvic tilt, aka lordosis, is one of the more common causes of low back pain in young adults.  Again, too much sitting is usually the culprit.

This posture is highly prevalent in tall, thin runway models.

It’s also prevalent in individuals who try to puff out their butt to make it look bigger.

this-is-what-bad-posture-looks-like

When you sit, your hip flexors (the muscles that bring your thighs towards your chest) are in constant flexion.

Again, the longer you stay in a certain position, the more likely your body will adapt the new position as its baseline.

Tight, short hip flexors will pull on the pelvis from the front, creating an anterior tilt and exaggerating your lordotic spinal curve.

Furthermore, the muscles on the posterior side of the pelvis, namely the glutes and the hamstrings will become elongated and inactivated by a lack of use.

Anterior pelvic tilt was the biggest cause of my low back pain when I first started learning about posture and pain.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt Pain Symptoms

The Anterior Pelvic Tilt rotates your pelvis forward putting excessive strain on the muscles of your lower back. Therefore, this posture will result in low back pain sooner or later, as well as an increased risk of disc bulge and herniation. 

It can also lead to discomfort in the anterior hip, as these muscles are extremely tight and over activated.

How To Tell If You Have Anterior Pelvic Tilt

  • Lay on the floor on your back, and bend your knees.  From this position squeeze your glutes as hard as you can until your hips are extended and you create a ‘Glute Bridge’.

  • Are you able to draw a straight line from your knees down to your shoulders? Or are you broken at the hips? If you are broken at the hips and cannot achieve a full hip extension, then you probably have lordosis from tight hip flexors.

  • Look at a side profile photo of yourself. Is there an exaggerated lordotic curve in your lower back and a bellowing out of your belly These are also indications that you have excessive anterior pelvic tilt.

4 Bad Posture Symptoms You Need To Know About

Bad posture is something that far too many people don’t pay attention to.

The manner in which you sit, stand, and move can have a profound impact on your life- much larger than you’d expect.

Here are the 4 worst symptoms that poor posture can cause.

1) Poor Posture Effect #1: Nagging Pain

How many times have you heard someone complaining of muscular or joint pain at work?

If it’s not their neck, it’s their shoulder, their knees, or their back.

I have had pain in just about every joint possible before I had any knowledge about posture.

Our body is meant to function as one integral unit. 

Bad posture in one joint will result in significant strain and complications in multiple nearby joints.

This happens because nearby joints will have to pick up more slack than usual and develop excessive wear and tear.  Why do you think so many non-athletes have to get total hip/knee replacements?

Your body is only as strong as its weakest link.

2) Poor Posture Effect #2: Movement Restriction

Our bodies are meant to exhibit a broad range of natural movements.

You should be able to squat all the way down, reach completely straight overhead, and perform a bunch of other natural movements without any restriction. 

Be sure to check out our article on How Flexible Are You to see how you match up to the ideal standard.

Unfortunately, bad posture can cause your joints to become tight, stiff and painful, ultimately robbing them of their mobility.

In addition, these shortened muscular positions can lead to decreased blood flow to certain parts of your body further increasing pain and soreness.

When working through a full range of motion, our bodies are highly efficient.

Just take a look at any kid playing in a park.

Try and emulate any of the movements that those kids are doing, and you will be embarrassed at what you discover.

This is me exhibiting a perfect full range of motion squat at the age of 5.

Even as an adult, you should still be able to perform several basic functional movements.

This is especially true for an athlete of any kind.  Whether you decide to lift weights, play basketball or be a dancer, you must be able to get into certain positions to accomplish your sport efficiently.

Any movement restriction has the potential to cause a preventable injury during your athletic activity.

Getting older is not an excuse to let your joints and your movement patterns deteriorate.  This is preventable. It starts with fixing your posture.

3) Poor Posture Effect #3:  Breathing Difficulty

Your diaphragm is one of the most important muscles in your body.

When it contracts, it allows your lungs to expand and bring oxygen to your body.

Believe it or not, bad posture can impair this process by creating a “restrictive” lung pattern.

This means your posture can put your lungs in a compromised position, and make them unable to expand to their normal capacity.

In essence, people with bad posture are impairing their ability to expand their lungs to full capacity.  This is happening 14-16x a minute!

bad-posture-symptoms

Less oxygen means less mental clarity, less nutrients to your muscles and less overall energy.

You cannot afford to have compromised breathing as a busy professional.

4) Poor Posture Effect #4: Poor Body Language

If you want to convey an important message to someone, how will your posture affect the delivery of that message?

Would you stand with your shoulders slouched and looking at the floor, or would you stand tall and look the person square.

How about meeting someone for the first time?

Good posture will always give a better first impression than bad posture.

Those with good posture portray high self esteem, are taller, and exude charisma.

Someone with bad posture appears unmotivated, fatigued and uninterested.

In addition, there is some research suggesting that bad posture and mental health are related.  Individuals who are depressed and more likely to sit with slumped shoulders.

In one study, participants with mild to moderate depressions were taught how to sit with improved posture and were then asked to give a speech. The researches noted more energy, less self focus and improved mood.

You do not have to walk around with your chest puffed out, but you should be cognizant of your body position throughout the day.

Do your best to keep your spine and shoulders in a healthy position.

It can say a lot about you.

So What Causes Bad Posture?

Bad posture is caused by muscular imbalances that are created from poor bodily positions in our day to day life AND from repetitive unnatural movements patterns.

These include:

  • Sitting for several hours a day,
  • Typing on keyboards way out in front of us
  • Holding cell phones to our heads with our shoulder shrugged up
  • Keeping your head focused on a computer screen

The problem is, we do these activities for numerous hours every single day and we don’t do enough of the activities we were meant to do.

Unless you are born with congenital musculoskeletal problems, all of your muscles should be limber and you should have adequate range of motion in all of your major joints.

In other words, we are born with good posture, and acquire bad posture after years of putting our bodies in inefficient positions.

How To Get Perfect Posture

Now that you are aware of what bad posture looks like, you may have noticed that you exhibit some of them.

You have also probably seen many other individuals with one or more of these abnormal postures.  They are extremely prevalent in our society.

The good news is, you can fix them.

We go over the best posture correction exercises next!


Additional Resources

 

Final Thoughts On How To Tell If You Have Bad Posture

So as you can see, ignoring your posture can lead to many undesirable complications.

As a busy individual, you already have enough on your plate to worry about.

The good news is, many of these things are preventable and treatable.

 

Improving your posture will

  • Make you look taller,
  • Make you appear more confident,
  • Elevate your mood,
  • Improve your circulation,
  • Improve your breathing
  • Align your muscles and joints in the most efficient orientation
  • Decrease your risk of aches, soreness, and injury

All it takes is a small amount of postural education on your part. Let’s keep it going.

Related Posts On Bad Posture

Now we turn it over to you.

How many of these abnormal postures do you have?

Have you noticed any friends or family members with these positions?

Do you know of any other positions we could add to this list?

Comment below and let us know!

Get Started With Four Free Tried and Tested Beginner Workouts That Only Take 30 Minutes A Day!

Sharing is caring!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

Learn More About Them Here

2 thoughts on “You Probably Have Bad Posture [Here’s How to Tell]”

  1. I have every one of these bad posture issues but mine come from not sitting but standing all day as a hairdresser. I’m twisting and turning my back and looking down at people’s heads as well as constantly having to lean forward over people because THEY won’t sit straight even after I’ve asked them a million times to straighten up!!! My shoulders roll forward, my neck is always hurting i have chronic pain in between my shoulder blades, my hips hurt, my ankles ache and let’s not get into my feet and the years of pain I have had. I suffer from muscle cramps in my hips and sides no matter how much water I drink. I really hope these exercises help me!!!

    1. thewhitecoattrainer

      Hi Mary
      Sorry to hear this, but it sounds like you have figured out the source pretty well. Definitely give the exercises a try as well as the posture resets shown in the videos!

Comments are closed.

Need A Simple Workout Program That Only Takes 30 Minutes?

Download A FREE Copy Of The WCT Workout Template To...

Get a complete list of which exercises you should do and how to do them to get the best science-based results. (Especially if you don't have a lot of time to exercise.)
SEND ME THE TEMPLATE NOW

A Comprehensive Full Body Workout To Build Muscle & Burn Fat (In just 30 minutes a day)

Download this valuable FREE template that goes over the best exercises to do to and how to do them to get the best science-based results (especially if you don't have a lot of time to exercise.)
Send Me The Template Now

The WCT Calisthenics Workout Tempates

Included you will recieve two different templates
A 4 Day/Week Upper Lower Workout Template
A 3 Day/Week Push Pull Legs Template
DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE TEMPLATES TODAY
wct-3-day-email-mock-up

Learn 3 Incredibly Simple Strategies That You Can Use Right Now To Eat Healthier & Lose Weight

These are the same strategies we use every day despite working 80+ hours a week!
Start Lesson 1
Note: When you click the button, you will be joining The White Coat Trainer email list. You may unsubscribe at any time

Don't Know What To Eat?

Download this valuable FREE Table that goes over the best foods from each category (so that you no longer need to guess which foods are healthy and which one's arent)
YES- SEND ME THE TEMPLATE NOW

The WCT's Best Compound Exercises E-Book

Download this valuable FREE E-Book that goes over the best compound exercises for each body part (so that you stop wasting your time doing mediocre exercises)
YES- SEND ME THE TEMPLATE NOW

Want To Build Muscle & Gain Strength But You Don't Know How To Get Started?

Download this valuable FREE 10 Step Checklist that goes over the exact step-by-step formula that ensures your workouts are optimized for results!
YES- SEND ME THE CHECKLIST NOW!

Want To Build Muscle & Gain Strength But You Don't Know How To Get Started?

Get 4 Free Full-Body Workouts plus a 10 Step Checklist that goes over the exact step-by-step formula that ensures your workouts are optimized for results!
YES- SEND ME THE  PDF NOW

4 Full Body Workouts To Build Muscle & Burn Fat (In Just 30 Minutes A Day!)

Download this valuable FREE PDF that goes over the best exercises to do to + the top 10 mistakes you need to avoid in order to get the best science-based results!
SEND ME THE  WORKOUTS NOW

Wait...Don't Forget Your Free Workout Template!

Download Now