I have heard these stories many times in the clinic. This guy woke up with a dagger like stabbing pain in his upper back. He couldn’t stop screaming from the pain and has to be rushed to the hospital by his helpless wife. A 35 year old office worker woke up one morning and could not turn her neck and has no choice but go to the emergency room. A graphic designer who can’t get out of bed from severe back pain after years of nagging pain went to the ER.
We often hear our mother tell us to sit up straight or stand tall growing up. As a young person, we never fully understand what that really means. As we get older and our bodies are subjected to more static and repetitive work demands, posture starts to become more and more important. But what is really an ideal posture anyway? Is it a military posture? It is very hard to stay upright when sitting and working all together.
A slouch is a bad posture. We all know that. Hunched shoulders, belly relaxed and loose and head is forward. Military and a rigid upright posture is not ideal as well. Pinched shoulders, hips driven forward and low back is arched way too much. People overcorrect the slouchy posture and end up hurting more in the stiff new position.
Finding a midway position from the slouch and the overcorrection is the key. This midway position is what we strive for when we work. Cheek bone is slightly in front of the collar bone, shoulders are dropped and never shrugged or pinched, low back is only mildly arched and feet are well supported from the floor. The best way to maintain this position is to add a pillow or towel roll behind your back to lean and hang on when sitting.
Spending hours completing a project in the computer is not ideal specially if you sit everyday. Ligaments in your body will stretch out and start to sprain. This is called repetitive stress injury. Be aware that you need to change your position every 20-30 minutes when possible. Make every reason to stand up and walk around or do other tasks to break the stress of prolonged sititng.
Here are more ways to have better posture and turn them into healthy habits to preserve good health in your muscles, joints and ligaments.
Always use the backrest of a chair to lean on and a foot stool if your feet needs more ground support.
It is smart to invest in an adjustable work table that gives you the option to work in standing after you have done a good amount of sitting.
Practice being in the midway posture described above then adjust your work station that allows you to maintain this balanced posture.
Relax your eyes now and then. Look far and scan your environment activating your peripheral vision. Eye stress can affect the posture as well.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Your posture deteriorates when your body starts to starve or not getting enough water
When you are too stressed while working, literally stop what you are doing and practice some deep breathing. Posture is deeply affected by the build up of tension in the muscles due to stress.
If your job is more of the on the go type, proper footwear with good cushions and arch supports are helpful. Lighten up the loads in your bags specially if you sling it over your shoulder. Swing the arms whenever you can when walking to allow more loosening in the stiff trunk area.
Once a strain or sprain has set in, having a good posture is not enough. The strain and sprain has to be treated. Maintaining good posture will benefit your body for the long term. Seek a physical therapist who understands good postural restoration by providing effective hands-on treatment techniques and solid exercises that will get you out of your problem and eventually will allow you to maintain good posture minus the strain and sprain. Healthy postural habits keep you away from an emergency room visit. 😉