5 long-term effects of poor posture (and how to avoid them)

Text neck? Sad shoulder? Here's how you might look in a few years if you don't fix your posture

Woman looking at laptop and holding her neck in pain
(Image credit: Getty)

Squinting down at your phone, slumping over your desk, and sitting on a poorly designed chair when working can all have a negative effect on your posture, which over time will start to show physically. Even how you snooze can have an impact – turns out, there are good and bad postures to sleep in

The people that brought you the world's most distressing illustration of what happens to your face if you don't sleep have now turned their attention to your posture. Mattress specialists Time4Sleep have teamed up with Body and Posture expert Ivana Daniell to uncover the physical repercussions of clinging onto those poor posture habits. Once again there's a disturbing character to illustrate those effects – say hello to Polly (below), who embodies an 'exaggerated' – thankfully – collection of posture-related conditions. 

Woman exhibiting poor posture conditions

(Image credit: Time4Sleep)

1. Text Neck

Holding your neck in the wrong position will lead to the compression of the cervical spine. Ivana suggests that, "To avoid text neck, aim to keep your spine neutral with devices kept at eye level." Which is alright when typing on a laptop, but a little more unnatural when you're texting. Still, something to think about when you're bingeing YouTube videos on your phone. 

#2. Kyphosis and #3. Sad shoulder

Kyphosis is the increased curvature of the upper spine, and is commonly found amongst people who spend long hours at a desk. Along with Kyphosis, you might end up suffering from 'sad shoulder', where your shoulders start to slump forward.

Investing in the right equipment can help with this. "Consider purchasing an ergonomic chair – this will allow you to create a 120-degree angle at your hips which is ideal for back and hip support," says Ivana. You also want to position your computer screen at eye level to keep your cervical spine in a neutral position, and many have found that investing in one of the best standing desks, so you can stand for at least some of your working day, helps too. 

#4. Inefficient breathing and #5. Numb hands

The exaggerated curvature of the spine can have a knock-on effect elsewhere. For instance, it can make it harder to breathe in an efficient way. It can also cause numbness in your extremities. "Cervical spine compression caused by text neck can result in neck and shoulder pain or tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers," explains Ivana.

It's important to keep an eye on your posture not only during waking hours, but also while you sleep. It is possible to optimise your sleep pose to boost recovery times and improve posture, and it's equally true that sleeping in an awkward pose will worsen your posture over time. Make sure you have a mattress and pillow that provide proper support and keep your spine in neutral alignment as you snooze – head to our best mattress and best pillow guides for our recommendations.

Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).