Sitting is becoming a national health priority as chronic pain results from our sedentary lifestyle, but there is a simple solution that has largely been overlooked – a good upright posture. Good posture takes the pressure off the skeletal structure and muscles, greatly reducing the possibility of chronic pain, according to new book – Straight Forward, by Dr Hooman Zahedi.
“For most people, sitting for long periods of time results in poor posture. In my experience, office workers experience far greater incidence of lower back pain than more active workers. This is because their heads are more likely to slump forward whilst working at a desk, and for every centimetre that the head shifts forward, the pressure on the muscles in the back and neck doubles in an effort to hold the head up,” said Dr Hooman Zahedi.
“This puts strain on the back and neck muscles and over time can result in chronic pain. In fact, 80% of Australians will experience back pain at some time in their lives, and for 10% this will lead to a significant disability.  Something as simple as a good upright posture will take the pressure off muscles and alleviate chronic pain.
“In addition to the impact on our muscular system, something we rarely think about is the effect poor posture has on our internal organs. A forward leaning posture, or a twist anywhere in the spine, will compress the spinal cord and will also have a detrimental impact on breathing, heart rate, blood circulation and digestion.
When your posture is upright, you can breathe deeply and easily. This not only allows more oxygen and blood to flow into muscles, but is also good for your overall wellbeing. Better oxygen and blood flow helps you to think clearly and has the flow-on effect of enhancing your mood, concentration and energy levels in general.
So, here are some health tips to improve your posture:
Good posture when sitting
If your office chair seat is adjustable, tilt your seat so it’s lower at the front and higher at the back. If not, place a foam wedge or folded towel at the back of your seat. This lifts your bottom above knee height and positions the spine in a relaxed normal S-curve – resulting in a good upright posture. (See diagram).
Good posture when standing
As standing desks become more popular whilst working, good posture is equally as important whilst standing. Just as a foam wedge is recommended for sitting, a slight shoe heal is recommended for a good posture whilst standing. Again this places the pelvis in the right position to support an upright spine for good posture.
Working at a standing desk will also keep your core and back muscles engaged throughout the day and improves your posture.
Exercises for stretching muscles
It’s also important to stretch and strengthen your muscles. Build in regular walking, running, swimming, yoga or pilates during the working week to improve your general health.
Exercises you can do to improve posture
In particular, any exercises that open and lengthen the front of the body are good for your posture such as: exercises for your chest, forearms, biceps or quads, or pull-ups, standing rows and seated rows.
Movement is important to take the pressure off your lower back. Where possible alternate between a desk, standing desk, office couch or conference table. Or take phone calls standing up and suggest a walking meeting.
What to do if you experience chronic pain
If you do experience ongoing muscular pain, seek help from a health professional like a chiropractor. As well as alleviating the cause of the pain, added benefits include an overall improvement in general health. http://www.mja.com.au/journal/2009/190/9/back-pain-national-health-priority-area-australia
This article is based on Dr Zahedi’s book: ‘Straight Forward. Why Forward Posture affects your health and how to fix it’.
Dr Hooman Zahedi is a chiropractor with practices in Dee Why and Sydney CBD. www.straightforwardclinics.com.au
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