Think twice before you suck in your tummy for a picture-perfect pose. The habitual holding in of the stomach, called hourglass syndrome, may cause severe damage to your organs.

Although it's not a disease or an official medical diagnosis, health experts strongly advise people to stay away from the habit of stomach gripping as it can lead to undesired consequences over time.

What happens when you suck in your tummy?

When you suck in the stomach, the rectus abdominis or the abs muscles tighten up. However, since the lower tummy has more fat, these muscles need to work more. Eventually, the repeated posture creates a fold or crease in the abdomen and even pulls the belly button upward. The compression caused by the posture reduces the space for abdominal organs and increases pressure on the joints of the spine and pelvic floor muscles.

Causes of hourglass syndrome

1. Poor posture - It may cause changes in the spine's natural curvature and cause tension in the abdominal muscles.

2. Negative body image - Societal pressure and negative body image may force a person to suck in the stomach to look thin. When the actions get repeated for a long time, it can "rewire" the brain to make it a natural pattern.

3. Congenital conditions - Certain congenital conditions such as gastroschisis or omphalocele can cause imbalance due to the abnormal development of muscles.

4. Abdominal pain - Some people develop the habit of stomach gripping after injury, as a voluntary or involuntary defense mechanism to reduce pain.

Health issues

The health issues do not occur when a person occasionally sucks the tummy in but only when the habit gets continued for a long period.

1. Lower back pain - Consistent overworking of muscles on the lower back due to the increased pressure on the pelvic muscles and damage to the diaphragm can cause back pain.

2. Neck pain and headaches - When the diaphragm gets damaged, it affects breathing. This increases strain on the muscles of the neck and causes neck pain and migraine.

3. Breathing issues - Stomach gripping cuts down the oxygen intake by around 30% as it reduces the space for the lungs to expand.

4. Acid reflux - Diaphragm also functions to prevent the reverse flow of stomach contents back to the throat. The damage to it increases acid reflux.

Hourglass syndrome can be treated by breaking the habit and learning proper breathing techniques.