Health News Digest

holiday blues

November 7, 2016

Beat The Holiday Blues By Improving Your Posture

By Michael D. Shaw

Last year, just before Thanksgiving, UC Davis Health system posted an excellent article entitled “Beat the holiday blues—and know when they’re something major.” The piece reminds us of that curious paradox whereby the holidays can simultaneously be a time of joy and depression/anxiety. Among the many factors cited that can cause the holiday blues are…

  • Time change
  • Increased alcohol use
  • Overeating
  • Lack of sleep
  • Unrealistic expectations about ourselves
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of time for oneself

The article concludes by warning people that severe holiday blues could be an actual case of major depression, and its last sentence might be considered hopeful: “Antidepressants help about 70 percent of individuals who may have a depressive episode.”

However, many of us search for more natural approaches to healing. Could something as simple as maintaining good posture be part of the solution? A study from June, 2015 in Health Psychology, entitled “Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses?” indicates that:

“Adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture. Furthermore, sitting upright increases rate of speech and reduces self-focus.”

Widely cited work by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy links good posture to increases in testosterone and decreases in cortisol levels. Likewise, it has long been known that stretching—which improves posture—causes endorphins (pain-reducing, feel-good hormones) to be released.

Conversely, physiotherapist Anna-Louise Bouvier, psychologist Erik Peper, and others link chronic slouching to neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and headaches. Ironically, to those affected, slouching can feel more comfortable than good posture, because—according to Bouvier—”Slouching is a vicious cycle where longer periods of slouching lead to the weakening of core muscles, which makes it more painful to sit upright.”

Online sources for active methods of posture improvement abound. But what about a novel passive method? Welcome to Kacelia, LLC and its breakthrough product—the Tru-Align Body System. Developed by Chicagoland chiropractor Dr. Evelyn Haworth, in conjunction with her husband Kelly, Tru-Align uses gravity and specially designed components to exert a downward pressure, restoring the spinal curves and good posture.

While it is technically a traction device, the user need only lie on it—ideally for 20 minutes daily—to derive benefits. Unexpected in our “no pain, no gain” world, to be sure, but, as Dr. Haworth explains…

“A passive approach can be more effective than active muscle movement in remodeling your body. When the muscles are under load, or being activated, they’re not going to re-form as easily, and you’re not going to break up the scar tissue, to elasticize the muscle attachments as readily.”

The good doctor told me she treated her first patient at the tender age of six! It seems that her school bus driver had a stiff neck, and needed a good massage. While in chiropractic school she was singled out as a natural and broke the record for the most patient visits in the school’s history during her internship. Now, 15,000 or so patients later, the Haworths are excited to offer those she can’t help in person with a holistic option for treating their pain at home. There’s plenty of supportive material on the website. Check it out.

The folks at Progressive Health have an interesting perspective on the posture/health connection…

They liken posture improvement to a sort of “fake it till you make it” working concept, akin to coaches encouraging their players with minor injuries to “walk it off.” As they summarize:

“Good posture alone is not likely to cure any form of depression, however, sitting and standing up straight can instantly work to improve your current mood. Just try it. If you are slouching now, with your head tilted forward (most people assume this position while looking at a computer screen), straighten your spine, move your head back slightly, and tilt your pelvis forward slightly. You will instantly feel more confident and alert. Over time, sitting in this position will send signals to your brain to produce hormones that lead to a healthy mental state.”