Do you ever walk through your door after a long day of work, schlep off your bag, kick off your heels, and just feel achy all over? Your lower back feels tight, your shoulders are throbbing, and the balls of your feet feel super tender. This isn’t normal, right? You’re only 20- or 30-some-odd years old… so why do you feel like you’re 24 going on 97?
It likely has something to do with your posture. There are a few obvious daily habits that you probably already realize aren’t good for your posture. Staring down, scrolling through Instagram for over an hour, hunching over your desk when you’re working on a tedious project, shifting your weight into one hip as your standing on line at Trader Joe’s, we’ve all been there.
Your posture not only affects how you look, but more importantly, it can impact how you feel. If you’re slouching, you look like a schlub (as my mom would say), but it can also cause serious pain down the line.
The good news is that your posture is something that can easily be corrected. And one of the easiest ways to do so is double checking your wardrobe. A lot of our favorite pieces can end up causing damage we might not even realize.
See what looks are likely messing up your spine and what you can change to prevent further slouching:
A Monstrously Heavy Tote Bag
Or honestly, any one-sided tote bag. Think about when you reach for your tote before work in the morning. You probably throw it over your shoulder, head out the door, and don’t think twice. But now think about carrying a 10-15 pound dumbbell on the same shoulder, five days a week, for a majority of your life. Ouch.
We’re betches of habit, and you probably favor the same shoulder every time you pick up your handbag. We’re all guilty of shoving a laptop, our makeup bag, work out clothes, multiple pairs of shoes, and a small country around all the time. We like to have stuff. It’s like a security blanket so we always feel “prepared.”
But when you carry it all the time, especially without evening out the weight across your back, it’s going to mess with your shoulders, particularly your trapezius and rotator cuff. Your trapezius (more commonly referred to as “traps”) is a muscle that runs the top of your back between your shoulders and neck (the upper traps) down to your mid back (the mid and lower traps). Your rotator cuffs are four teeny tiny muscles that help you move your arm through the shoulder socket. Constantly putting pressure on them can cause pain and can lead to a stiff neck and rounded shoulders.
I’ve determined I’m a grandma. I keep hard candies in my purse, I’m hobbling around, and I have back pain 🤷🏻♀️👵🏼 #YoungIsTheNewOld pic.twitter.com/iB5LS9nopk
— Rae ✨ (@thekookiesmeow) August 20, 2018
The solution? If you can’t give up your bag lady lifestyle, at least embrace the backpack so you can split the weight evenly across your back. Fortunately, backpacks are now becoming polished enough that you can bring one to the office without feeling like you’re still in high school. And they can fit your entire life.
In a perfect world, you could cut down on your baggage, literally, and travel light with just the essentials. If you are absolutely anti-backpack, at the bare minimum, you should really go through your tote and clear out anything you don’t use on a daily basis. The weight of all those gum wrappers and broken lipsticks really do add up.
Loafers, the iconic flat white sneaker, ballet flats, whatever. If it’s flat, it’s not doing a lot for your feet. You might think you’re better off when you slide on a pair of loafers over heels, but flat shoes offer little to no arch support. Without supported arches, you throw off the entire alignment of your ankles, knees, hips, and back, ultimately causing more slouching and back pain. If you’re someone who already feels knee, hip, or low back pain, you should limit your wear. If you have a polished pair of loafers or ballet flats you wear to the office everyday, try to at least add gel inserts to keep your arches lifted.
Wearing sneakers for the commute to work and then changing into heels when I get to the office is the most grown up thing I have done. Ever.
— Elizabeth (@harrietlawler_) October 25, 2018
If you live in New York, or do a considerable amount of walking to and from work, bite the bullet and wear sneakers on your commute and then swap your footwear at the office.
And this should go without saying, but make sure workout sneakers are actually supportive. If you do a lot of running or high intensity training that includes jumping, I highly recommend you find the most cushion-y pair of sneakers you can find.
Too Tight Or Restrictive Jeans
Have you ever dropped something while wearing your tightest pair of vintage denim with no stretch and caught yourself doing some awkward version of a bend and snap? If your jeans are so tight or non-stretch that you can’t properly bend over to pick something up, they limit your mobility, ultimately messing up your alignment.
Restricting, non-stretch fabric can also dig into your hips and hip flexors (the muscles engage when you flex your hip and live at the crease between your hip bones and thighs). If you feel like you can’t sit up straight without the tug of denim, or any other fabric, size up or ditch them completely. Feeling uncomfortable for the sake of a ~lewk~ is one thing, but if you’re sitting at your desk all day with pants tugging at your hips and low back, save ‘em for the weekend.
Why is my first thought when I wear tight ass jeans “but if I get in a fight I can’t move good enough” ? Lmao
— Warriors Bandwagoner (@MichaelEricJr) January 20, 2014
This also goes for leggings, shirts, jackets, dresses, bras—anything. If you feel like you can’t move naturally, it’s going to cause discomfort in the long run.
Not Wearing The Right Bra
I’ll admit I am 100% on team no bra unless I’m working out. But fortunately (I made peace with this a loooong time ago), I’m pretty flat-chested, so it’s a non-issue. I don’t have anything that really needs “support.” But if you are someone who does or just can’t imagine leaving the house without a bra on, it absolutely is worth dropping some moolah on some quality bras.
Too-tight bras can cause a sore neck or traps. This can also happen if you spend more than a few hours in a heavy-duty sports bra. All that compression fabric is not meant to live in for more than an hour or two. If you have smaller boobs, chances are you don’t need those super thick straps in a super tight fabric.
my fucking bra supports me more than you
— Annalise 🥢 (@Annal_ise) July 15, 2015
On the other hand, a bra that’s too loose or not supportive can cause rounded shoulders and lower back pain since the weight your chest can literally drag you down. Try to go bra shopping in person over online. Try them on in store. Jump around in the dressing room, make sure your boobs feel supported, especially if you’re sports bra shopping. Try to find a brand with a generous return policy so you can play around with styles and see which ones support you from sun up to sun down.
Images: @rominafa/Unsplash; @thekookiesmeow/Twitter; @Annal_ise/Twitter; @MichaelEricJr/Twitter; @harrietlawler_/Twitter