POSTURAL TIPS at the home and office to improve back health:
Our increased sedentary lifestyles, brought on especially by higher proportions of “screen time”, desk-related types of work, longer working hours and substantially lower levels of active time puts most of us at risk for repetitive strain injuries and postural-induced strains and pains.
The fact that our postural habits are so deeply ingrained in who we are cannot be more clearly demonstrated by Samuel Johnson’s quote: “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken”. These postural habits mainly happen on a subconscious level and most of us are not even aware of our poor habits, but we often suffer the consequences of pain and discomfort arising from these poor habits! Changing our poor postural habits does not happen in an instant. It is important to remember that it is through committed efforts over time that bad habits are transformed.
Correct posture in sitting:
- Keep the ears aligned with the mid-point of your shoulders (on the outside of your arm). There is a substantial increase in strain on the neck joints and muscles for every centimeter that the ear protrudes forward from this point. This is one of the most notably poor postural habits acquired during computer / desk-related activities.
- Keep the chin level (parallel) with the floor. You should ensure that your laptop or PC screen is at an adequate height for you to not have to tilt the head up or down. Keep the screen at eye-level and slightly tuck the chin in (make a mini double-chin). A quick fix is to place books under the base of the screen or laptop to get it to eye-level, if it is not at the correct height.
- Keep the shoulders relaxed and slightly pulled back. We often tend to pull the shoulders up to our ears when sitting at a desk. This will overwork our shoulder and neck muscles and cause you a great deal of discomfort and pain – a real headache!
- In sitting, a forward slumped posture (hunchback) will result in a flat lower back (not enough curve) or posterior pelvic tilt.
- We need to maintain the normal lumbar lordosis (curve) in our lower back and sit on the “sitting bones” (Ischia – this is what they are for!) with a neutral pelvic spine alignment.
– To find your neutral: round your lower back to its maximum, then hollow the back to its end of range – find the middle position between these two extreme points of the curve of the lumbar spine. This is your neutral.
– You will actually sense how the spine just feels aligned, with the pressure being transferred through your sitting bones!
– It is well worth investing in a lumbar support cushion to promote lower back support in sitting.
- The height of your chair and desk are equally important to maintain a good sitting posture. Remember the 90-90 rule in sitting: your feet need to be placed flat on the floor, creating a 90° angle at the ankle. Use a foot stool under the feet if you cannot attain this position.
- The height of the chair should allow for a 90° angle to form at the hips. Support the back of the thighs completely with the chair.
- Knees have to be bent at a 90° – 110° angle. The knees should be slightly lower than the hips.
- The desk height should allow for a 90° angle at the elbow with no strain on the arms / shoulders.
- Slightly activate the core muscles (they act like the spine’s “belt” to keep the spine well supported and aligned) by gently pulling the navel towards the spine. Try maintaining this muscle activation at a low-grade-intensity of about 25% of maximal contraction.
Changing an old, bad habit is no easy task, but well worth the effort!
- To facilitate this process, a useful tip is to place post-it-notes, stickers, or any other handy visual cues as a “reminder” on your laptop or PC screen at work, on the rearview mirror in your car, etc. The purpose of this little “reminder” is to allow for you to become CONSCIOUS of your current posture, to make the necessary adjustment(s) and over time (with regular corrections) establish new, healthier postural habits.
Just remember the wise words of Tony Robbins:
“If you change nothing, nothing will change”
1. http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/PE-POSTURE.htm [accessed 23 August 2016]
2. Berger, P. (2003). The Journey to Pain Relief. South Africa. Page 222.