Does your neck and back ache from working at home? Is your body stiff and sore from your daily commute? Are your hands always cold or fall asleep at night? Make sure you read through this blog to find ways to make sure you aren’t making things worse by doing these common things. If you want relief from your postural pain right now, click HERE to book your session today.
Postural pain is an extremely common problem affecting just about everyone. Unfortunately COVID has magnified these problems for many of us with how much it has upended our lives. Between working from home, helping our kids learn remotely, and the endless virtual meetings, our bodies have been stuck seated in front of a screen for far longer than they are used to.
While it’s important to try and get up and move regularly to give your body a break, that’s not always an option. Here are 4 simple tips for sitting at your desk (or couch, or kitchen table…) to help minimize stress on your body.
One important note before we get started. Most people tend to think of good posture as tensing up and holding your body as straight as possible. This is 100% WRONG! Good posture is all about your body having to do the LEAST amount of work to keep you upright. While some effort will be required to get used to some of these tips, this is easier and less work for your body than your ‘comfortable’ sitting position now.
Your pelvis is what supports all of your weight when we’re sitting, so it’s essential that we keep it in a good position. Do you feel the large bones in your bum? If you’re getting funny looks, wait until no one is watching. People often refer to these as your Sit Bones. These are the bones that are supporting your upper body when you’re sitting.
The thing you’ll notice though is that these bones are rounded, and rounded surfaces aren’t very stable. If you’re sitting on the rounded part of the bone, your muscles have to work hard to maintain the balance of your upper body. To keep your pelvis stable when you are sitting, you need to roll your hips forward, so you are sitting on the flat part of the bone. If you’re having trouble picturing that, take the round part of the bone that you can feel, and try to push them into the gap between the seat and the back of the chair.
At this point, you’ll probably feel like you’re falling forward into the table. Don’t worry, this is very normal the first time you try this. That sensation will go away as we add the next steps.
Now that our pelvis is nice and stable, the next thing we need to do is balance our rib cage over our pelvis. The way we do that is to make sure that our spine is as straight as possible.
Wait a minute! Didn’t I say earlier that good posture was NOT about holding yourself as straight as possible? That’s true, but it’s because we want our muscles to do the least amount of work to keep our bones straight. If we look at our spines from the side, you’ll notice they curve back and forth as go up from our hips to our head. This allows the spine to be flexible and absorb forces easier.
What we want to do, is to try and balance the spine on itself the best we can. This way, the muscles don’t have to work hard to keep you upright. The further unbalanced the spine is, the harder the muscles have to work, and the more sore they become!
To balance your spine, I first want you to follow your ribs up until they meet in the centre of your body. Put your thumb there, and imagine that you are grabbing a handle sticking straight out from your body. Now picture a handle coming out of your back at the same place. From here try and lift your body from those handles as high as you can. Once you’ve lifted yourself as far as you can, exhale slowly and relax your muscles while trying to keep your ribs from tilting from to back or side to side.
As a bonus, you can use this same exercise to help with your standing posture as well!. Just move your imaginary handles from the angle of your ribs to a point about 2 inches below your belly button. This is because these points are where our centre of gravity is when we are sitting and standing respectively.
Forward shoulders. We all have them, and from typing, texting, driving, and general slouching, and they’ve all been getting worse. The usual thought is to try and hold them back, but we know that holding things in place is not what good posture is about. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just hit a reset button to get our shoulders back in place? Since we don’t have one, I’m going to give you the next best thing.
First thing I’d like you to do is try to make a big circle with your shoulders, and just your shoulders. Your arms won’t be moving at all for this. Start by bringing your shoulders forward then rolling them up and then back as far as you can before rolling them down and relaxing again. Now that you have a feel for how your shoulders move, let’s try it again.
Start by rolling them forward, then up and back, just like before. This time though, once they’re up and back, instead of rolling them back down, I want you to forcibly drop them. Try this a couple of times, and notice where your shoulders end up. This is going to be your reset button! Every time your shoulders feel tight, or you notice them creeping forward, just roll and drop a couple of times. It’s so easy, it quickly becomes second nature after a while, and that’s what good posture should be: EASY!
Just like with our shoulders, our heads often creep forward, especially when we’re in front of a screen or get stressed in general. And just like with our rib cage, the further off balance our neck is, the more work our upper back muscles have to do to hold our head up.
How we’re going to set our head is similar to what we did with our rib cage. To start, imagine that there is a string tied to the very top of your head, and that someone is pulling you straight up. That’s going to help lengthen your neck. Now to balance it, I want you to try and pull your head straight back as far as you can while keeping it level. Don’t let your chin drop down or let your nose point up!.
From this position let your head come back forward about 10%. As awkward as this may feel right now, your head is now balanced on your shoulders! If you want proof, let your head go back to your normal position, and feel the muscles under your head at the back of your neck. Notice how tense they are? That’s because they are working to keep your head from falling forward. Now rebalance your head and check them again. Do you feel the difference? If good posture is all about your muscles doing the least amount of work, we have a clear winner here.
Now let’s put it all together: Push your sit bones into the gap in your chair, lift your ribs up from the handles in your chest and back, roll and drop your shoulders, and balance your head. Don’t worry about trying to hold this position, or get mad at yourself if you fall out of it. Your body took years to develop the posture that it has, so it will take some time to correct. The more often you do this though, the easier it will become, and will soon just be natural for you.
You don’t have to put up with pain due to posture. We hear from many patients that they have put up with the pain, changed their lives and relied on medication and injections for nothing more than short term relief if they are lucky. Our patients are often amazed by how easy it is to get relief and feel empowered when they learn some simple tricks to quickly and easily settle down pain on their own.
If you’d like to get these results too then click Click HERE to book an appointment or give us a call at 905-457-7475 so we can get you back to doing what you want to do and what you love.
I honestly want you to get rid of this pain and back to doing the things you love.
Robert Kappes, Registered Physiotherapist
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