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Posture and Your Health continued...

"Low back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, tension headaches, trigger points in neck or shoulders, sometimes tightness and stiffness -- all of these problems can occur when our skeleton is thrown out of alignment via bad posture," Bottsech says.

In a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in 2006, doctors found that the typical "slouch" is linked to higher rates of wear and tear on the spine, which is often a contributing factor to chronic lower back pain.

In another study published in the journal Headache, researchers found that people whose posture caused their heads to jut forward had more frequent, longer, and more severe headaches than people who maintained a correct posture.

But even if you don't experience any short-term health consequences, you may not be off the posture hook.

Over time, studies show, faulty body alignment can lead to actual skeletal damage, including degeneration of the disks and joints, and even a breakdown of cartilage that can leave you achy and less mobile in your later years.

This may be particularly important for women at risk for osteoporosis. In a study published in the journal Bone and Mineral Research in 2006, researchers found that posture that continually causes the head to jut forward (known as hyperkyphotic posture) was linked to a higher risk of fractures in women aged 47-92 -- independent of bone mineral density or even a history of fracture.

The Big Slump: Why Our Posture Is So Bad

Right now, you're probably remembering all those times Mom whispered in your ear "stand up straight". And of course, she was right. But if you're also thinking poor posture is only about what goes on when you're standing, you're missing much off the message. Novak says slumping when we're sitting is by far the more serious problem.

"Over the last two decades we've become a nation of professional sitters, and what' I've experienced dealing with posture over the last 20 years is that most of the problems people experience are actually linked to the positions they assume while working on computers," Novak says.

Hunching over your keyboard, she says, causes muscles in the upper back to stretch and the corresponding muscles in the chest to tighten. This, in turn, pushes the head forward and the ribcage down.

Assuming that posture day in and day out can cause you to not only slump every time you're at your desk, but eventually, even when you're standing, Fleming says.

"Actual structural changes can begin to take place so that ultimately you're slumped over all the time and standing up straight can actually become painful and difficult," Fleming says.

Exercises to Improve Posture: The 1-Minute Solution

Although changing your posture may seem like a daunting task, experts say real change can come about fairly quickly. Novak says you can begin the process in less than a minute, with an "instant" realignment technique for joints and bones.

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