One of the not-so-glamorous aspects of being a physician is…paperwork. But a little peek into one particular piece of paperwork has given me a surprising insight about the extremely high cost of bad posture. Over the years, I have had many patients who work for huge corporations. Many of these employees work long hours at their desks, and often they come to me with musculoskeletal complaints that are the result of the poor ergonomics of their workplace.
Many years ago, I learned that some large companies have funds available to make improvements to desks, computer stations, chairs and other elements of workplace ergonomics…usually, they just need a note and some specific recommendations from a doctor. You see, these companies realize that it’s worth investing in a standing desk, a new chair, or a different keyboard to keep their employees happy and healthy. I have written such letters and recommendations many times and although I probably can’t write one for you today…I think you’ll find this article about improving your posture by my team at UpWellness equally useful!
How we sit and move, both have a significant bearing on not only how we look but also how we feel. That’s right, good posture is incredibly important and can prevent you from developing certain painful and chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, bone spurs, and arthritis. Not to mention the fact that good posture can help improve your wellbeing on a daily basis by keeping muscles spasms, low back, knee and hip pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis at bay. Here are seven common posture mistakes that you may be making.
According to neurosurgeon and spine surgeon Sheri Dewan MD,
“When your bones and muscles are being held in a way they’re not designed to be held, things get strained, and bones are left un-cushioned. Poor spinal posture can even lead to nerve damage because the nerves get compressed, which can trigger leg or hand pain.”
There is good news. Making a few changes to common posture problems can make a tremendous and positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Here are seven of the most common posture problems and how you can easily fix them.
Not being active enough
This is, by far, the most common posture problem. Our bodies are meant to be in motion and have postural changes throughout the day. It is important to move and stretch every 30 minutes. This is especially important if you are sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen all day. Set a timer and get up and move and stretch frequently. Even if you are watching a movie or scrolling through your social media feed, it is essential not to get stuck in one position for too long. This can cause pain and discomfort.
Rolling your shoulder forward can fire up a chain reaction of bad posture. This causes an exaggeration in the curve of the upper spine and puts your head and neck at an unhealthy tilt. It can even cause your pelvis to tuck in. Rolled shoulders restrict how much the lungs can expand, which decreases lung capacity and can impact your heart and respiratory health. The worst part is that the longer you stay in these positions, the more habit-forming they can become. You will even start to do it when you stand up. Be careful not to overcorrect by sticking out your belly or chest. Focus instead on lengthening your spine and giving your body as much height as possible while relaxing your shoulders.
Looking down for too long
Working at a computer or watching your cell phone can cause a very bad posture issue to take place. You may not know this, but your head is heavy, really heavy. When we tilt it forward and downward for too long, it puts tremendous pressure on our neck and upper back muscles. All the muscles do not evenly support the weight in the spine. When you sit at a desk, you want to hold your head up straight with your line of sight parallel to the ground below you. Hold any handheld devices directly in front of your eyes or at shoulder height rather than down by your waist. Raise your computer screen so that you can keep your neck and spine in a neutral position.
Using the wrong sized keyboard
Poor posture while sitting at your desk can cause serious issues. When you are using a keyboard, your forearms should be resting on the surface you’re working at, and elbows should be hanging straight down at your sides, rather than being open at a wide-angle. Using a keyboard that’s too wide or too narrow also encourages bad posture. If you have a larger shoulder width, wide chest, or bigger frame, you need a bigger keyboard in front of you.
Avoid sharp angles at your desk
If you work at a desk, sitting can lead to posture issues. Tucking your legs and feet under the chair can cause your hips to roll too far forward, which puts extra pressure on the lower part of your back because it is overarched. If you stretch your legs out in front, this can cause your hips to tilt under you, which also puts additional pressure on your lower back. Also, if you lean too far forward or too far back in an office chair for an extended period, you will put stress and strain on muscles that are not designed to support your body in that position. The best way to sit is with your feet flat on the ground with your shins perpendicular to the floor, your knees bent at a right angle, your thighs forming a right angle with your spine, and your spine resting on the back of your chair. To help make this position more comfortable, pull your hips to the back of the chair and use a lumbar support pillow.
You are not using your core
If you push your belly forward or slouch your lower back while sitting or standing, you are not using your abs or core muscles to support your spine. This can cause low back pain and even herniated discs in your lower spine or spinal stenosis – a tightening of the nerves in your spine. Think about pulling your belly button in towards your spine, just enough to engage your core muscles. This is a great way to build your core strength, and once you do it for a while, your body will automatically do it without you even thinking about it.
Not stretching enough
Since your body is meant to move, frequent stretching is essential. Standing or sitting for too long in any one position will cause your body to ache. A great way to release tension is to stretch multiple times throughout the day. Stretching is not something that you have to do just before and after exercise, but rather all the time. Here are some great stretches to do during the day.
- Extend one leg back behind you and lunge into the front one to stretch the front of the hip muscle.
- Do squats frequently throughout the day – this helps to loosen up the muscles and helps promote blood flow.
- Reach your arms up to the sky and make big arm circles to open up your chest.
- Stretch your inner thigh muscles by holding a side lunge.
Keep your chin up and remember, stand and sit tall and make good posture a priority.
-The UpWellness Team