Sit right, sit tight

Work will cease to be a pain if your posture is correct

Posture is a where one's health begins. Most of us do not understand this principle or fail to realise its importance. Thus, you see many fitness enthusiasts going to gymnasiums, working out hard, following a healthy diet but having distorted postures. Besides, due to long working hours mostly in sitting position, our posture is always compromised. Poorly designed workstations further contribute to poor postures. While some have a perfect work ergonomic structure but don't know how to use it to their advantage. While some align their work station but forget that it is also important to sit erect. By sitting and standing erect coupled with corrective stretches and exercises, one can most definitely reduce their chances of pain and injury.

The benefits of correct and erect posture

  1. Blood circulates at its best.
  2. Our muscles and joints work more efficiently.
  3. Correct diaphragmatic breathing happens.
  4. Our chances of back and neck problems reduce.
  5. Internal organs function at their best.

Health complications due to incorrect posture The most common postural dysfunctions are "Upper Cross Syndrome" and "Lower Cross Syndrome".

A person suffering from "Upper Cross Syndrome" has rounded shoulders and a forward head posture with very tight pectoralis [chest] muscles, and weak cervical and thoracic extensor muscles. A person diagnosed with this syndrome must stretch the chest muscles many times a day, and strengthen their cervical and thoracic extensor muscles at least once daily. Failing to do so will result in neck and shoulder problems.

A person suffering from "Lower Cross Syndrome" has a hyper extended lower back with weak lower abdominals, buttocks and hamstrings along with tight hip flexors and lower back muscles. Thus, it is recommended to stretch the lower back muscles and the hip flexors many times in the day. Also, it is required to strengthen the lower abdominals, the glutes [buttocks] and hamstrings once a day.

However, before starting any exercise program one needs to be examined by a specialist. Also, the exercises must be done under expert supervision.

Tips for correct posture

The two main reasons, for back, neck and other joint problems, are the use of chair and computers for long durations, and poor postures. To avoid musculoskeletal problems, it is very important to follow the tips given below.

  1. Your feet should always be placed firmly on the floor just below your knees. Do not sit on your toes or take the feet under the chair. Avoid crossing the feet while sitting.
  2. Knees should ideally be at a 90 degree angle. One can sit upright and stretch the feet forward but reducing the angle at the knee must be avoided.
  3. he back of the knee should not press into the chair. There must be a gap between the back of the knee and the chair to allow blood circulation and prevent numbness in the legs and feet.
  4. The thighs should be parallel to the floor. No sitting on sofas or chairs where the hip sinks in.
  5. The monitor should be placed in a way that the centre of the monitor and the eyes are in line with each other and the neck is in neutral position. If the monitor is low, the neck flexes. If the monitor is high, the neck is in extension. Flexion and extension for a prolonged period causes problems in the neck and shoulder and may later even cause problems in the lower back since the spine compensates for the problems in the upper back and neck area.
  6. The keyboard and the mouse should be placed in a way that the shoulders are relaxed and not raised or drawn forward.
  7. or those who are more comfortable with a small cushion placed behind their lower back, please do so. However, it does not suit everyone. So first try to see if you are comfortable or not, and then decide.
  8. When arms are placed on the armrest make sure the shoulders are relaxed and not raised.
  9. The most important thing is to make sure you sit upright with your chest up. A common problem is that many employees sit at their workplace with rounded shoulders, and their chest sinks in. This draws the neck forward and causes neck pain.
  10. Besides correct posture and organisation of the work desk, it is extremely essential to get up from the desk at least every 15-20 minutes. This will prevent stiffness in the muscles caused by prolonged sitting.
  11. It is also very essential to keep the muscles supple to avoid back and neck tension. For this, it is important that one stretches regularly in the office.

Keeping the above points in mind is very important to anyone who spends time on the chair daily. Otherwise musculoskeletal problems are inevitable.

Finally

Correct posture is also important when you stand. We must always stand on both the feet. Avoid standing on one leg or placing your weight on one leg. Many people stand with their hands on their waist which perpetuates rounding of shoulders. Arms should be relaxed and left loose by the side.

It is also vital to have correct posture when you lift objects. Make sure that you are as close as possible to the object. Bend your knees, suck your navel in and keep your back erect before you pick up heavy objects. This will prevent back aches. The same thing applies even when you push or pull objects.

Train your brain

To change posture is more of a mental challenge than a physical one.

Mind and body are closely linked. In many instances, we are, without realising it, in control of the conditions that give rise to pain and are in a position to get rid of it. It's as much a mental as a physical approach. Our brain controls our posture through nerves. Our mind can control our brain and one way of implementing that control is to alter our posture positively. The first step is to think positively about improving your physical posture.

The second step is to listen to the body. Why do people grin and bear it? Because they are not listening. Discomfort and pain are telling you something. In particular, with musculo-skeletal matters, the pain and discomfort are telling you that something is not right, something is out of alignment, or something is moving in an incorrect way. Analyse the feeling, look for the root cause and seek ways of changing.

So it is worth treating the messages of discomfort and pain positively, by listening to them. We all have our own posture ingrained in our brains as being "correct" either by habit or by upbringing. However, in cases in which posture is in fact incorrect, the brain needs to be re-programmed to accept the correct messages; training with constant reminders and repetitions in the early stages is required. This need not be particularly time consuming.

- Source: Etcom Postural Ergonomics Ltd

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