If you work as a holistic healthcare practitioner or are a mum looking after children, the chances are you are on your feet most of the time. You may also be an entrepreneur working long hours at your computer. If so, then you may experience achy limbs or back pain at the end of the day. As a carer I have experienced these symptoms in the past too.
I decided to look into the problems of posture and these aches and pains. I found applying healthy posture principles took down the pain and powered up my posture. The following are 7 wrongs ways that hurt your posture and 10 good ways to power posture up:
- Being inactive. As human beings we are made to be mobile and active. When we spend long periods of time sitting or standing we experience tension and stress in the body.
- Carrying a heavy bag or rucksack. Quite often people tend to favour their dominant side and carry a bag or rucksack over that shoulder. The repeated use of that side fatigues the muscles and created unnecessary wear and tear on those joints too. If the rucksack is worn on the back it can be loose and hangs away from the body creating pull and tension.
- Mobile phones and laptops/tablets. When these devices are being used the users tend to slouch, drop their heads forward into a Mr. Burns (Simpson’s reference here) type stoop.
- Feeling stressed can create a tight and closed posture. If the shoulders are raised high towards the ears and the back is in a light clasp, even crossing the arms and legs can tire the muscles that support that posture. This reduces the blood flow around the body, creates shallow breathing and a sense of tightness. The compound effects result in mental fatigue too.
- Stooping and slouching. Improper sitting or standing throws the body out of alignment. As the head rests upon the spine, the weight of the head can significantly impact the neck and back. People who have a tendency to stoop or slouch experience pain and stiffness when they move from a stooping position.
- Lifting things the wrong way. Incorrectly lifting objects can create unnecessary back pain, not to mention in the arms and legs too. This can create acute injury. In more serious cases chronic conditions.
- Over reaching. If you work with a keyboard and you have your arms out stretched this can create pain in the neck, back, shoulders and arms. It can also happen if you use a telephone and have to over stretch to reach it. The repetitive practice of overreaching creates strain.
Now that we have looked at the 7 wrong ways to misuse the posture, here are 10 good ways to power posture up:
- Lift correctly. Keep the weight close to the body before lifting. Have your feet at a comfortable shoulder width distance. Bend your knees keeping your back straight. Have a firm grip on the weight; gently lift whilst straightening your legs, keeping your eyes focus upwards.
- Align your body. When standing aim to have your ears, shoulders, hips and knees in alignment. If you are seated then align the first three mentioned. Keep your feet relaxed and flat on the floor. Ensure your weight is evenly distributed between both sides of the body.
- Awareness. Throughout the day check in with how you feel in your body. If you feel contracted and are breathing shallow then take a few deep breaths, relax, stretch and lengthen your body.
- Movement. If you have been sat for a long period of time get up and move. I know of a famous life coach who sets a timer for 25 minutes intervals and works, then after that time was up she would take a 5 minute break (stretch, relax or a glass of water) before continuing for another 25 minute spell.
Walking is great to wake up the body and promote blood flow. Alternatively you could try standing still and gently lengthen your spine, as though someone is pulling a cord attached to the top of your head, lifting it upwards. You can also roll your shoulders backwards softly in a circular motion 10 times. Breathe gently and deeply as you do this, switch the direction of the roll to forwards 10 times. This will increase blood flow in the upper back, shoulders and neck allowing those areas to soften and relax.
- Adjust your workspace. Make sure your computer screen is at the correct level with your eyes. If necessary, make adjustments with your keyboard and phone so they are easier to reach too. Change the level of your chair to one that supports a comfortable and healthy aligned posture.
- Breathe. Many people breathe improperly. They tend to breathe shallow and in many cases the posture is stooped over too. This combination means the diaphragm is not able to fully expand for a deep breath to occur. Softly pulling back the shoulders and raise the head (lengthening the spine) his can help you to assume the correct position for deep breathing to occur. Now take slow, soft deep breaths in and feel the difference.
- Tone up. Working out and keeping trim ensures your body is healthy and in proportion. Remember to strengthen the entire abdominal area which supports stability.
- Balance. When standing it is best to have the body weight even across both feet. Some people favour their body weight on their heels more when standing, rather than the entire foot. Doing this can weaken the feet and strain the ankles, knees, hips and back. Remember balance is best.
- Mirrors. A mirror is a great tool for building a powerful posture. Stand in front of one and notice your stance and alignment (see point 2 above) then correct accordingly if needed.
- Professionals. There are practitioners in the field of postural correction and alignment. Chiropractors, Alexander technique and Feldenkrais practitioners are to name but a few. Look at the support that is available and choose one that feels right for you.
Improving the posture can alleviate unnecessary strain and pain on the body and can improve a your quality of life. One final tip: hydration keeps the joints healthy so be sure to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day : )