Good Posture: Why Bother?
It is absolutely good advice when your mother told you not to slouch in your chair and hunch your back when you walk. We usually wouldn’t imagine or know the kind of damage that is done to our spine until we sense the warning signals from our body. So, why bother with good postures?
There are so many benefits to staying in the right posture. By just looking at your posture alone, it can send out either a positive or negative message about yourself to others. And did you know that poor postures take a serious toll on your spine, shoulders, hips, and knees? In fact, it can reduce your flexibility, compromise your muscles, limit your ability to build strength and burn fat; worse of all – lead to back and joint pain.
Mr Lim Hun Teck, Principal Physiotherapist, Raffles Physiotherapy Centre, would like to share with you on what to look out for in each of the following posture. Start checking the mirror to see if your body is in the correct alignment.
This is something that we almost never thought about as it is so natural to us. Pause, look at yourself in the mirror and feel the pressure on your feet. Which part of your feet are you resting most of your body weight on?
Consider these points:
● Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart.
● Place your weight mostly on the balls of the feet, and not on the heels.
● Do not lock your knees.
● Avoid over-extending your neck. Tuck your chin in a little to keep your head level.
● Imagine a plumb line running through your ear and all the way down to the front of your shoulders, middle of your hip and knee, and in front of the bone outside your ankle.
● Stand straight and tall with your shoulders upright and relaxed.
● Let your arms hang naturally by the sides of your body.
● If you’re standing for a long period of time, shift weight from one foot to the other, or rock from heels to toes.
● Test yourself by standing against a wall with your shoulders and bottom touching wall. In this position, the back of your head should also be touching the wall.
For those of us who have a deskbound job that requires us to sit for hours everyday in front of a computer screen. Check if you are already doing the following:
● Ensure your hips and back are placed snugly against the backrest of the office chair. Avoid slouching or leaning forward, especially after sitting for a long period of time.
● When sitting at a desk, your arms should be flexed at a 75 to 90 degree angle at the elbows. If this is not the case, the office chair should be adjusted accordingly.
● Your legs should be placed approximately 90 degrees to the floor. If they are not, try placing your feet on a footrest.
● Ensure that your shoulders are straight when seated.
Dr David Wong, Specialist in Orthopaedic & Consultant, Raffles Orthopaedic Centre highlighted that prolonged sitting with good posture can also be harmful to your health. “Scientists at the University of Missouri have found that the act of sitting seems to shut off the circulation of a fat-absorbing enzyme called lipase. They found that standing up engages muscles and promotes the distribution of lipase, which prompts the body to process fat and cholesterol, independent of the amount of time spent exercising. They also found that standing up uses blood glucose and may discourage the development of diabetes,” said Dr Wong.
He added that clerical workers who use a computer for extended periods are at greater risk of upper extremity and neck pain, especially on the side where the mouse is used.
Therefore,it is time to take one to two walking or standing breaks for every hour of sitting to reduce the health risk of prolong sitting.
Postures for Lifting and Carrying Heavy Objects
We need to lift heavy objects off the ground from time to time and most of us tend to do it wrongly, leading to hurting our lower back. Here is how to protect yourself:
● Always bend at the knees and not the waist.
● Pull the object close to you, when bending your knees, before lifting it up.
● When carrying a heavy or large object, keep it close to your chest.
● Use the large leg and stomach muscles for lifting, not your lower back.
● Switch from one arm to another frequently if you need to carry the object with one arm.
● When carrying a backpack, avoid leaning forward or rounding the shoulders. Balance the weight on both sides of the shoulders as much as possible. If the weight feels like too much, consider using a rolling backpack with wheels.
● If necessary, get a supportive belt to help maintain good posture while lifting.
Check if you’re standing tall and walking with the right posture:
● Keep your head up and eyes looking straight ahead.
● Avoid pushing your head forward.
● Ensure that your shoulders are properly aligned with the rest of the body.
Drivers, do you consider the way you sit when driving? Read the tips below:
● Sit with your back firmly against the seat for proper back support.
● The seat should be adjusted to a comfortable distance from the pedals and steering wheel to avoid overly leaning forward.
● The purpose of the headrest is to support the middle of the head to keep it upright. Try tilting the headrest forward if possible to ensure that the head-to-headrest distance is not more than four inches.
Dr Wong warned: “Studies have shown that drivers of trucks and public transport vehicles are at a greater risk of lower back and neck pain syndromes as well as other musculoskeletal disorders than clerical workers, partly because of their poor sitting posture and lack of breaks.”
Sleeping Posture with Mattresses and Pillows
We spend about one-third everyday in bed. Good quality of sleep is also affected by what you sleep on. Do you ensure that your sleeping posture is right with the support of a good pillow and mattress? Take note of the following for quality sleep:
● A relatively firm mattress is generally the best choice for proper back support, even though this is subjective and up to individual preference.
● Use a pillow to provide proper support and alignment for the head and shoulders.
● Sleeping on the side or back is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach.
● Place a rolled-up towel under the neck and a pillow under the knees to better support the spine.
● If you prefer sleeping on the side, place a relatively flat pillow between the legs as this helps in keeping the spine aligned and straight.
Benefits of a Good Posture
In general, Dr Wong lists the following benefits of having a good posture.
● You reduce the abnormal wear on your joint surfaces that can eventually lead to arthritis.
● Less stress is placed on the ligaments that hold the joints of the spine securely together.
● Your muscles can work correctly and efficiently when you keep your joints and bones in good alignment. This also helps to prevents fatigue.
● The chances of muscle pains, backaches and strain are reduced.
● It makes you look good.