By Don Williams
In this article we will introduce some of the basic essentials of posture and how to avoid creating problems when at work.
Historically, we developed as cultural groups who were required to do a variety of different tasks to survive. As a consequence our musculoskeletal system developed to cope with these tasks and really did very well.
However, in modern society, many people have very repetitive jobs or adapt one static position for the whole day, often not realising how long they sit in one position before moving. The classic is computer work. We see a range of common injuries that are directly related to static positions and postures.
There are essentially 2 reasons that people get issues with static positions at work, the first one is obvious, poor posture. The second issue is a little more insidious and relates to the way our muscles, ligaments and tendons are constructed. When these structures are loaded for a longer period of time, which is unfortunately only 15-20 minutes, the elements go through phenomenon called visco-elastic creep, where the structures stretch out and are not maintaining their original state. When the pressure is release, you sit up straight again, it takes 2 minutes to recover half the pliability, however, it takes a further 4 hours before the structure fully returns to the pre-stretched state. What this means to office workers is, that if you sit down at 9 am and slouch for half an hour, it will be almost 1.30 before the body has recovered from this slouch. This effectively creates a degree of instability, or loss of control of the joints.
This phenomenon is partly the reason why people will often report that they, “weren’t doing anything, I just turned around and my back/neck went”.
A really simply solution to address this and start to improve your posture is to set a meeting reminder or alarm on your computer or smartphone which goes off every 15 minutes to remind you to get up and move. Using a “Microbreak Routine” can significantly reduce the neck and upper back stiffness often associated with seated postures and will in fact make you feel more awake and increase productivity! When you fall into a slouching position it restricts breathing, which increases fatigue. The following are 2 simply exercise to try during your micro break.
General Stretch regime
During the “Micro-break”, try doing a very simply stretch routine. Stand up tall, rotate all the way to the left, then to the right, bend all the way to the left, then to the right (stretch the arms out overhead as you go), slowly reach down to touch the toes then slowly reach backwards arm high over the head, take 2 deep breaths then sit down again in good posture.
Perch on edge of chair, spread and externally rotate legs (turn feet out), lift chest, tuck chin in, sit tall, look straight ahead, push the tip of tongue into the roof of the mouth, 1 finger width behind teeth, (rotate out) your arms & hands (so the thumb is pointing behind you) as you exhale actively, press toes down with inhalation and raise toes up with exhalation repeat 3-4 X.
When looking at posture, it is a great idea to analyse everything you do on a day to day basis and understand just how often you deviate from an optimal postural position.
When viewed from the side and standing comfortably, a “plumb” line should pass directly through the ears, shoulders and hips. When standing, this should also pass through the knee caps and ankles. Be careful not to roll the shoulders forward (elbows winging), poke the chin out or let the chest sink towards the floor. Don’t try to pull the shoulders back, instead focus on sitting or standing tall, as if you are trying to touch the ceiling with the top of your head, thumbs pointing forwards. GENTLY stare at the horizon and tuck the chin in.
This month, try integrating “Micro-breaks” into your work routine and try to use the neutral spine position when sitting or standing at work.
Brugger Position Neutral Spine -