Have you got bad posture when you sit?

Friday, August 10, 2018
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We have a lot of patients who come in, saying “I know, I have bad posture”.

In our modern lives, unfortunately we spend quite a lot of time sitting, and no-where near as much time moving.

One of the most common types of bad posture we see as Osteopaths in people who sit for long periods every day, is something called ‘forward head posture’. It’s exactly what it sounds like it is - having a head that has been held forwards for so long, that it becomes the body’s normal state. Kind of looking like a turtle. And this can be really detrimental to the health of the neck. In fact, it actually speeds up wear and tear (degeneration) of the neck joints, ligaments, muscles and discs. They become overloaded by the extra forces placed upon them by postures like this that they were never really designed to cope with.

How do I know if I have ‘forward head posture’?

You’ll know if you have a bad posture when you sit, because too much sitting will be uncomfortable!! The classic symptoms our clients mention are a burning along the back of the neck, across the tops of your shoulders and feeling a strain or fatigue in the upper back. Also, you’ll find the more tired your muscles are at holding your head up against gravity, the shorter and shorter the amounts of time you’ll be able to sit for are.

The head weighs approximately 5kgs. And for every 1 inch / 2.5 cms forward your posture is, your neck has to combat an extra 4.5kgs! Think of it like this – if you held your arm out in front of you, holding an empty glass, your arm muscles would start to burn pretty quickly. Now imagine it with a full glass of water. That would weight much less than 5 kgs. So your neck, shoulder and upper back muscles put up with a lot of extra weight even before you get that nasty burn.

What causes ‘forward head posture’?

Mainly the problem is strong, tight muscles at the front of the neck and chest, and long, over-stretched muscles of the upper back and shoulders. This happens to us all naturally, as we do almost everything in front of us (unless you’re a windsurfing instructor!). Plus, most of us spend a good portion of the day sitting. And this type of posture doesn’t just affect people working at a desk. It happens to people who sit in traffic a lot, those who do crosswords, knitting or sewing, people who like to read, and people who play games or read on their devices.

How can we stop bad posture when sitting?

The key is starting from the Lumbar spine, and working from bottom up! If you sit well supported with your lower back / bottom up against the back of the chair, that’s step number 1. Step 2, is having a good support for your lower back, like a rolled up towel or a proper lumbar support. (We have them at the clinic if you want to take a look).Why does this work? Well, having a support for your lower back’s natural curve makes you immediately sit upright. In fact, it pushes your Lumbar spine forwards, making it difficult to slump. The weight of the arms will naturally cause your shoulders to drop in this position. Then, all you have to do is move your mouse / device closer to you, or consider supporting your forearms on a couple of cushions or a tray. With a Lumbar support, you’re naturally in a much better position to un-do that bad posture. Your head will be back to being carried in the midline again – the way it was designed to be carried! No more weighty over-load for those neck discs, joints and muscles!

Sitting for long periods of time still requires regular breaks, but you might find this just helps set you up to keep going for a bit longer. If you still having that nasty burning feeling, you’ll need just a bit of extra help. Think about some massage or a couple of Osteopathy treatments to literally get you on the straight and narrow again!

Give us a call, we’re happy to help – 09 427 9306.


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