We believe that prevention is the best cure. This program contains easy to follow advice to help you prevent serious spinal pain and injury. The information relating to standing posture can be practiced anywhere, for instance while you are waiting in the queue at the supermarket. The advice relating to seated posture will hopefully dispel the myth that a rigid upright posture is good, maintaining such a posture for hours will lead to fatigue, slumping and pain.
Practice makes perfect. Perfect posture all the time is difficult to achieve but don't give up as every small change helps. Research has shown that a habit takes 21 repetitive actions to form. So just relax and use the advice as often as is practicable. This advice is designed to be safe for adults, children and those that are pregnant. However, if there is any pain while following the advice, stop and consult with us before proceeding further.
LEFT: Commonly called hanging off the ligaments because the muscles of the legs, stomach and back are not active leaving only the ligaments to support the body. This posture is common also amongst those that are pregnant, in these cases the increased weight at the front means one naturally tries to lean backwards to counter balance oneself. Ligaments are low in elasticity and over time will lengthen causing instability of the joints. Note how the hips are forward, the knees locked out and the lower back is highly arched at the base.
RIGHT: A slumping forward posture often adopted by teenagers. Again this creates similar problems but in different areas. There is minimal muscle engagement and the shoulders round forwards, over time shortening the chest musculature and severely compromising the breathing mechanics. Reduced shoulder movement means the head has to extend upwards to keep the eyes level (a survival instinct), compressing the joints at the base of the neck, which frequently leads to headaches.
LEFT: Bring the tailbone underneath you towards the front of the body, bend the knees, rock slightly onto the heels evenly and activate the stomach muscles. For demonstration purposes only the pictures illustrate a highly exaggerated version of the posture desired. In reality a difference of a few degrees change or just a slight change in posture can reduce lower back loading signifi cantly and reduce the propensity for back pain.
RIGHT: Another way of achieving the same objective is to bring one leg slightly in front of the other, again with both knees bent. Swap weight bearing legs occasionally. Alternatively, place the front leg on a slight raised surface, about the size of a phone book. These both have the effect of bringing the tailbone underneath you and decreasing loading on the base of the spine.
Slumping forwards has a number of negative effects on the spine, from increasing disc pressure to dangerously high levels to compressing the nerves at the base of the neck, giving headaches. Constantly staying in one position for many hours will worsen the situation. The hip flexor muscles will also shorten if a prolonged static sitting posture is adopted which may affect the lower back adversely.
Sitting posture is predominantly upright, incorporating frequent movements and breaks every 30 minutes. Body weight is evenly distributed on the seat. A chair should be of sufficient height to allow both feet to be placed on the floor and backrests and armrests can also relieve spinal pressure but they should not be used continuously. A desk and computer screen should be at a height, which allows the body to maintain its upright neutral positioning. The computer mouse should be suffi ciently close to prevent overreaching forwards.
LEFT: A typical driving posture adopted by many of us especially after driving for a long period. The shoulders fall forwards and to compensate the neck extends upwards to keep the eyes level, again compressing the nerves at the back of the head. If this position is adopted for a prolonged period it is likely headaches and lower back pain will occur. Similarly, we often lean on the window ledge which introduces twists into the spine which can cause pain.
RIGHT: The back is straighter, shoulders are back and the neck is 'long' with the chin positioned towards the chest. The lower back is pressed against the seat support to reduce stress on the lumbar segments. Again frequent movements and breaks are advised. Try not to lean on the window ledge for prolonged periods in order to keep the spine in a fairly 'neutral' position most of the time.
LEFT: Top of forearm stretch. Straighten one arm in front of you then rotate the hand out to the same side of the body while bending it up towards the outside shoulder. Then place the other hand on top so hands are clasped together. Then increase rotation inwards while pulling the top hand up.
RIGHT: Bottom of forearm stretch. Pull back on one hand with the other to lengthen the underside of the arm. Hold for the count of 20. Repeat both sides. Do not over-stretch, a good posture while gently stretching is more beneficial than the distance travelled.
Our Auckland Osteopaths are located at Wellwest, 31 Lincoln Road in Henderson, Waitakere, West Auckland. Call 838 0631