Good spinal posture enables the mechanics of the spine to work more efficiently, thus helping to reduce potential strain from both body weight and movement.
Unfortunately, today’s modern lifestyles, along with the natural forces of gravity, challenge our healthy upright postures, leading to the following signs of a poor posture:
• Weight over the balls of our feet
• Sway back
• Increased roundness of the mid-back
• Shoulders rounded forward
• Head forward
• Chin poked
A poor or faulty posture leads to abnormal stresses being placed on elements of the spine, which should only be involved with minimal stress and weight-bearing. Over time, these abnormal stresses can lead to structural changes in the spine, including degeneration of discs and joints, lengthening or shortening of the supportive ligaments and muscles, poor motor control, wear and tear of cartilage and eventually pain.
An example of this is your office worker who spends too much time at his/her desk without breaking. If this person then spends most of the evening being sedentary, postural changes and muscular imbalances will develop. Frequently, the shoulders become rounded and shrugged, the muscles of the chest become shortened and tight, the arms rotate inwards, the mid-back becomes stiff and rounded, weakness develops in the muscles between the shoulder blades, the muscles at the base of the skull become tight and the muscles which tuck the chin become weak, leading to chin poking. This is often termed the Upper Cross Syndrome and is so often the basis for chronic headaches, neck pain, restricted neck mobility, shoulder complaints such as impingement syndromes, mid-back discomfort and lethargy.
Often, patients ask, “What is the ideal sitting posture?” – Callaghan and McGill (2001) suggest that no single, ideal sitting posture exists, rather they recommend a variable posture to minimise the risk of tissue overload. The ideal sitting posture is one that changes continually, thus preventing any single tissue accumulating too much irreversible strain.
Important considerations to reduce muscle fatigue and pressure on the joints, ligaments and discs of the spine:
• Keep the low back straight/slightly arched inwards with a good lumbar support.
• Your seat should be adjustable with your hips positioned slightly higher than the knees (tiltable seat pan).
• Rest your arms on an adjustable arm rest so that the elbows are bent at approx. 90° and the shoulders are relaxed. Ensure that the desk is high enough for the arm rests to be positioned underneath.
• Rest your feet comfortably on the floor.
• The centre of the computer monitor should be positioned at nose level with no glare.
• The wrists should be relaxed on the keyboard and not tilted in either direction.
• A document holder/writing wedge is beneficial to reduce shoulder and neck strain.
• Break from sitting at least every 20-30 minutes.
Recent research by the British Chiropractic Association states that over 32,000 people visit a chiropractor each month with injuries that are aggravated or caused by a bad driving posture:
Below are some adjustments which are designed to reduce these episodes – please be aware that it may not be possible to follow all of them due to the variability of cars and seat specifications:
• The base of the seat should be no less than the length of your tibia (shin bone) from the floor.
• The back of the seat should be slightly tilted back from the vertical position.
• Feet should fall naturally onto the pedals. These should be operated by flexing at the ankle joints only. Avoid wearing high heels or very thick-soled shoes, as these will put strain on the ankle joint and may encourage unnecessary movement from hip and knee joints.
• The steering wheel should be at a comfortable distance, with only a slight bend in the elbows (safety recommendations advise that you should be no closer than 10 inches from the airbag cover).
• Relax back into the seat while lengthening through your spine (imagine a piece of string pulling you directly up through the top of your head). Ensure that the upper back is in contact with the seat and avoid rounding shoulders. Your head should ideally not carry forward from your shoulders.
• The seat belt should always lie across the top of your shoulder and never rub against your neck or upper arm. This is particularly important in children, where a booster seat may be required.
• Mirrors should be adjusted if necessary.
As discussed earlier, the best posture is a changing posture so where possible take short breaks ideally every hour and a minimum every 2 hours. During the break remain upright. A short walk is ideal. If you are stuck in traffic, simple buttock clenches, tilting the pelvis back and forth, and side bends can help reduce tension.
Should you have any questions or wish to discuss any discomfort you may be suffering when driving, please do not hesitate to call Bodymotion and a chiropractor will be happy to advise you: firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)20 7374 2272.
An ideal sleeping posture is one which produces minimal strain on the spine whether this be in a side lying fetal position or supine position (lying on the back). Lying on your front is never recommended.
During sleeping, the normal curves of the spine should be maintained to minimise stress. There should be no twisting in the pelvis or low back. Furthermore, the neck should be supported with a pillow, without distorting its normal alignment. Whether you lie on your side or on your back, your pillow should be soft enough to mould to your head yet still fill the space between your bed and neck.
Bodymotion will readily recommend supportive pillows or advise you on your sleeping position or workstation ergonomics (set-up). Contact us via email@example.com or on +44 (0)20 7374 2272.
Digital Postural Analysis
Many causes of back pain syndromes are multifactorial. We believe posture to be one of the main contributing factors. Indeed, posture is often quoted as being, “the window to the spine”. Because we know that prevention is better than cure, we have invested in state-of-the-art digital analysis software, “Posture Pro”. This give us the ability to assess posture in a more objective way and also demonstrate to the patient where the main problems are in a quick an easy manner. This, combined with our investment in the latest exercise software package, “Physiotools”, gives us the ability to give patients a tailored exercise plan to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight muscles in order to achieve and maintain better postural alignment.