With 12 years experience in dealing with all kinds of chronic problems we can confirm that there is one thing that is consistent with the people who come through our doors. Poor posture! If there is no original injury that occurred then it stands to reason that the cause of our pain is the way we hold ourselves. Whether that be when working, relaxing or playing sport. Ultimately this is great news! It means that we can all do something about our own problems. So how should we sit to avoid injury?
It’s All About The Pelvis!
In Physiotherapy speak we are looking for pelvic neutral when sitting. But what is such a thing? It’s actually quite easy to find. Right now whilst your reading this you’re probably slouching, most people do! But for now really go for a big slouch let you tummy muscles relax completely. Your back will be quite curved along it’s length. You may find this position uncomfortable. You may find it is your normal sitting position!
Now, from this position change your posture to something that is completely bolt upright as upright as you can possibly be – think of an over the top finishing school posture with text books on your head. Again this may be uncomfortable for you. For a select few again this may be how you sit normally. Rigid.
What we are looking for however, is something in between. Isn’t life always about a happy medium?! Alternate between these two extreme positions for a while. You should notice that the only thing that changes in these two postures is the position of your pelvis. To find pelvic neutral alternate between these two positions of the pelvis rocking back and fore. Now, each time you do the movement make a smaller and smaller movement. When you finally stop your pelvis should be in neutral. If you concentrate you should be able to feel your core muscles contracting about 30% to keep you in this position.
This should be comfortable – if not you need to give us a call! Now relax to how you sit normally. If there was very little movement between the 2 positions well done. You have good posture. If not, you have much work to do. If you’re still struggling trying to find this pelvic neutral position try reading this pdf here for a different explanation of how to find it.
The best time to start is now! Try to maintain this new posture at all times. Now Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect perfection on day one. The trick is initially to catch yourself when you slouch and correct the posture. You may want to go back to the original exercise to find neutral again. As time goes by the new posture will become more natural and you will start to form a new habit.
A good mnemonic to help you with your posture is to do the pelvic neutral exercise is your car at the start of a journey. Set your mirror when you have good posture. If you get lazy during your journey you will then have a reminder to correct your posture, otherwise you won’t be able to see anything in the rear view mirror!
At the end of a long day at work the last thing we want to do is think about our posture. But in many cases it’s the posture we adopt when we’re relaxing that is causing the problem. When you’re watching the TV on the sofa what position are you in. Do you lean to one side with your elbow resting on the sofa? Do you and your partner always lay the same way? Do you tuck your feet under yourself?
All of these are common “relaxed” postures. Each of them put certain muscles in shortened tight positions. When you put muscles in a short position for a length of time they stay short. We call it adaptive shortening in the trade. This continues to affect your posture and puts unnecessary strain on your back. “So how should I sit on the sofa?” Our view is if you want to relax, really go for it. Horizontal is the only way to go! Take up the whole sofa. And tell the family I told you it was ok.
But What About My Achey Shoulders?
So you’re back to work. You’ve improved the position of the pelvis but maybe your shoulders are still aching. There are two main factors here. Number one is stress! Many of us lift our shoulders as a response to stress, particularly as the day goes on and the intensity and demands of the working day increase. The key here is to take regular breaks to get the body moving and specifically relax the shoulders to take the pressure off the muscles along the top.
Secondly you need to try not to round the shoulders whilst you are working. Keep the shoulders relaxed, down and back. You can practice the back part of this by squeezing your shoulder blades together around the back of your body.
Don’t Go Searching For The Mouse!
The final piece of advice is for those of you who do a lot of computer work. Many people walk around as if they are still reaching for the mouse even when they are stood up straight. The key is not to “reach” for the mouse in the first place. When using a mouse for computer work it works just as well down by your side as it does in front of you on your desk.
Your arms should be relaxed and your elbows at about 90 degrees at your side. This should give you an idea of the height your desk should be as well. From there simply place the mouse where your hand naturally finds itself. Ideally your elbows or at least some of your forearm will be supported so your shoulders do not have to support the weight of your arm all day long and cause them to tighten up.
Over the course of the day as the stress builds you may find your hand drifting forwards into that reaching position again. For the stubborn offenders amongst you try placing you mobile phone and / or wallet / purse in front of the mouse. This will block your movement if you go too far forward. It will be very annoying! But it will get that posture changed!
Hopefully this article has been of use. If you have any more questions on what is good and bad practice or your have a specific condition that isn’t going away or you’d simply like some short cuts to make holding good posture much easier then give us a call now on 01793 613352 and we can talk about how we can help you achieve your goals. If you’d like more information on how to avoid injury in the work place check our previous blog: 10 Tips To Enjoy Work More And Avoid Injury.