Your posture, the way you hold your body, can represent a lot of things about you, as well creating or preventing tension in the muscles that support it.
A good posture displays confidence and strength in the way you hold yourself. Good posture requires the deeper muscles of your body to support you, while the superficial muscles undertake your required tasks. Unfortunately many of us only use the superficial muscles, having let our ‘support (postural) muscles’ become weak. This, with added factors such as stress, lead to tightness, stiffness and ultimately pain in our bodies.
Good posture has our head sitting up straight on top of our neck and spine, eyes looking towards the level of the horizen (not down) and shoulders should be held back and down. Arms should hang loosely, your spine should be straight and upright and your weight should be evenly distributed between both legs, without locking your knees.
Your posture will alter as soon as you change position. Being body aware and aware of how you should be holding yourself will allow you to adapt to these changes and thus reduce the stress on your body. Have a read of the other options in this section on posture during different activities.
Our postural muscles, such as the core, need consistent use and strengthening to become strong and get a point when that are activated on a less conscious level. As well as attending our core stability class on a Monday night, our Alexander technique teacher, Dee, can advise you on how to obtain effective and efficient posture.
Due to the amount of time we generally spend sitting each day it is important to be aware of good sitting posture. The first element to your sitting is your chair. Recently at a school reunion we noticed the desks had not been changed in 40 years.
We at Spinal Joint recommend the use of a swiss ball as an alternative to a chair. When sitting on a swiss ball you require the small muscles of your back and pelvis, those of your core, to be constantly working and aware to keep you stable. By having an active core you should be less inclined to slump forward through your upper back and shoulders.
If the swiss ball is not an option then select a good quality chair with a high back and a good lumbar support for your lower back. We can advice you on this. Sit your bottom into the back of the chair and have your back flat against the chair. Have your feet flat on the ground or on a foot rest, and try to ensure your thighs are horizontal or slightly down towards the floor.
The key to good sleeping posture is a good mattress and pillow. It is important to have a relatively firm mattress that is recommended for its support. We can advise you on these. A memory foam overlay may also help.
Be sure to sleep on your side or back if your side is not comfortable, not on your stomach. Use a firm supportive pillow to support and align your head, neck and shoulders (see pillows on the supports page). Ideally use only one pillow to support your head and neck.
You want your mattress and pillow to enable your sleeping position to give you a relatively straight, yet supported spine. Once you go to sleep your conscious support of your body no longer occurs. You can also add an extra pillow between your knees or a towel under your neck if you need extra support.
It is during lifting after a period of inactivity like taking something out of the boot of the car, when a lot of lower back injuries occur. You may be lifting something heavy on a building site or something as daytoday as your own child.
Regardless of what it is, it is important to lift with your legs, not your back. To do this you must bend at your knees, not from your waist, being sure to keep your back straight. If you lift heavy items regularly and find you get back pain, as well as strengthening your back with exercise, it might be worth looking into a support belt to wear around your waist while you are lifting. If the items you are picking up are really too heavy to lift on your own, or an akward shape be sure to get help from other people.
If you are carrying things in one hand, such as a handbag, be sure to swap hands/shoulders regularly. If you carry a lot of items every day use a backpack and carry it on both shoulders, otherwise get yourself a wheelie bag.
Use your legs when lifting. Start with one knee on the floor, use the strength of your arms to raise the object up onto your mid-thigh, then use the power of your legs to stand up.
If you are someone who works at a hot desk, or even if it is just using the computer at home, it is important to have your desk set up correctly as incorrect set up can lead to problems through your entire back.
Your place of employment should have someone who is trained on workplace assessment, and if not should be able to hire someone to come in. Alternatively we can come in and assess your set up.
Your chair and how you sit in it should be set up as stated in the sitting section. In addition to this, your chair height should enable you to sit with your arms comfortably resting on your desk with neither your shoulders raised or drooped forward. Your chair should be able to slide partially under your desk when you are sitting on it.
Assumming you use a computer, your screen should be at eye level when you are sitting upright, with your shoulders comfortably back and your head and neck upright, looking forward. If not, or if you use a laptop, be sure to have these raised to the correctly height, even if you use books to rest them on. If you do use a laptop an alternative option is to get a separate screen to attach to it that can be placed at the correct height. You can also get a separate keyboard and mouse to give you more freedom to move.
All other items you use regularly should be within easy reach. If you need desk space to write on then create a separate space on your desk that you can fully turn your chair to when using. Do not have a set up that causes you to twist to use.
For further information on your desk set up please contact us at Spinal Joint, Richard Lanigan is a professional member of the Ergonomics Association
Most of our daily tasks are simple and relatively easy to do, but when we do them over and over our bodies get fatigued and weak which then makes us vulnerable to tightness, stiffness and pain. Pens have been replaced by keyboards making writing text an activity causing many upper limb work disorders
While it is not always possible to stop doing these repetitive tasks, it is possible to adjust your posture while doing them to reduce the strain on the muscles, such as sitting with our shoulders up and back and our neck straight to take the strain off the upper back. It is also important to take regular breaks and get up and move around through the day to break the repetition of the task.
To enable the body to deal with the effects of repetitive tasks it is important to get regular treatment to release tension in the tight, overused muscles and to get movement in stiff joints. You should then combine this with stretches and strengthening exercises. Our staff at Spinal Joint have years of experience in helping people deal with the strain and pain that their everyday tasks put on their bodies. Come in today to let us help with yours.