Posture? What’s it all about?
The majority of patients that we see at back to health are suffering from some sort of back pain (or neck, your neck is part of your spine). Often, we find this is related to sedentary based jobs and prolonged sitting. Most of these patients are indeed aware of their posture while working; most make the effort to sit up straight, set their desks up ergonomically and have decent, supportive chairs to help ensure good posture – all of which is great. Yet, people still to come to us with back pain. So why is this?
Let’s take a look at posture itself. Posture may be defined as “the position in which a person holds themselves when sitting or standing”. Many of you know or will do shortly that we have natural curves to our spines. These curves develop naturally during infancy as we gradually learn to sit, crawl, stand and then walk. These curves improve your spines ability to deal with forces when we walk, run and jump for example. The idea of sitting up straight is to help maintain these natural curves to ensure that your back adequately deals with the stresses placed upon it.
Sitting slouched, or sitting in general, affects these natural curves increasing the stress placed upon the muscles, ligaments and joints in your back. This will likely not cause you any real damage in the short term and probably won’t hurt for a little while, but if prolonged it may well lead to pain and discomfort.
Of course, when you need to spend time at a desk, sitting with good posture is going to help ,but, and this bit is key, no matter how straight you sit, how ergonomic your desk is or how supportive your chair is, if you sit for too long you are quite likely to get back pain. Fundamentally, we are built to move. We have long limbs and, without getting too technical, our muscles attach to our bones close to the joint they are intending to move. This allows us to move our limbs with great speed and efficiency - primarily for locomotion See? Built for motion. Moving also helps to
- Lubricate your
- Give your muscles (heart included) a workout keeping them healthy
- Promote circulation
- Improve immune function
- Improve digestion
- Increase or maintain bone density
- Improve mental functioning (keeping your boss happy)
- Lower blood pressure
- Regulate blood sugar
There probably aren't many things that are better for you! You’ll probably have noticed in many cases that when you get back pain sitting at a desk it generally gets better once you get moving!
The answer? The only truly good posture is a moving posture and really this relates to staying in any single position for too long (yes that includes standing). So if you are stuck at a desk for much of the day, try getting up and moving little and often. Combine this with some simple exercises and/or stretches that can be done in the office or at your desk and you’re onto a winner!
- Sit up straight (a small wedge on your chair may
help with this).
- Ensure your desk is ergonomically set-up (click here for more info).
- If possible, switch from sitting to standing and
vice versa regularly (you can get adjustable desks to help with this).
- Sit in a supportive and adjustable chair
(everyone is different).
- Most importantly, GET UP AND MOVE little and often; go to the loo, make a cup of tea/coffee or do some stretches/exercises for example. Set reminders if you’re like me and
get easily engrossed and forget.
- If you’re still suffering, visit your osteopath
or other suitably qualified healthcare practitioner for further advice. They
will be able to help you.
This infographic illustrates some
of the above as well as some other risks associated with prolonged sitting.
Drake, R.L. et al. (2010). Gray's Anatomy for Students. Philadelphia: Elsevier.
https://besynchro.com. [Accessed 17/3/17]
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com. [Accessed 17/3/17]