Did you know that sitting posture and work habits play an important role in exacerbating or preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)? In a previous article “Does Rolfing Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?” we explored what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is and how Rolfing can help you recover from this problem. This article will explore the role that sitting posture has on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and how Rolfing can help you to achieve and maintain good posture.
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Most of us have a great deal of confusion about how to sit well. Sitting posture is an important health issue. People often think their neck or low back problem comes from a traumatic injury, but this is often not the case. Poor sitting posture puts your spine at risk.
Consider the architecture of the spine. Both the neck and low back have a lordosis or arch. Each vertebrae is actually wedged shaped to support these normal curves of the spine.
Try this exercise. Stand with both feet on the ground and look straight ahead. First place your hands on your low back. Do the same with your hands on the back of the neck. Can you feel each of the lordotic curves?
Poor sitting posture reverses these curves and puts pressure on the soft tissue structures. Over time, chronic and static pressure on the spine can distort the shape and efficiency of the soft tissue. When people say, “I have a slipped or herniated disc”, most often it is due to poor sitting postures.
Over time, years of poor sitting can lead to shortenings in the structure that make it difficult to sit and stand erect.
Hallmarks Of Poor Sitting Posture
- Slouching or Slumping: Most people sit with their pelvis tipped backwards, buttocks forward in the seat and the spine rounded in a C curve.
- Hunching: People often lean forward over work or over their cell phone with the spine rounded in a C curve.
- Cradling: Many of us hold the phone with our ear, putting a static strain on the neck.
- Crossing your legs: This usually tilts your pelvis backwards and rounds the spine.
Six Guidelines To Good Sitting Posture
- Avoid Static Postures: That’s right, the first rule of ergonomics is to avoid static postures. Set a timer and get out of your chair at least three times each hour. Also, shift your position often while you sit to change the stresses throughout the body.
- The Right Seat Height: Chair height should be different for each person. Ideally, the chair should
be high enough for the hips to be a little higher than the knees with both of your feet parallel and flat on the ground.
- Find Your Sit Bones: The ischial tuberosities are at the bottom of the pelvis and should form the base of support for your spine.
- Sit Tall: Ideally, the ear, shoulder and hip should be on a vertical axis.
- Maintain Your Lordosis: Poor sitting posture can flatten low back and neck curves. Consider using a lumbar cushion to help support the spines inherent architecture.
- Bring Your Bottom Back: Move your buttocks all the way back in the seat.
Featured Image Credit:www.undesk.com
Sitting is stressful, especially if it is endured for long hours. If you are sitting in a slumped position than you have lost your head. “Lost” meaning your head is no longer on top where it functions best. Instead, your upper back, shoulder and neck muscles are making a heroic effort to support your head.
Sitting habitually without a lumbar lordosis (low back curve) is a precursor for neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Hence the invention of lumbar support, to help you maintain that crucial curve even when sitting for long periods of time.
The good news is that by restoring the lumbar curve, your trunk becomes more vertical and your head moves back on top were it belongs. Balance in sitting is critical to having a healthy spine.
Check it out in the mirror. Sit sideways and watch your entire body profile as you slump with into a C curve. Watch what happens to you head and neck. The head drops forward as the entire front of the body shortens. Then, decrease that C curve by moving the waistline forward and see what happens to your head and neck. Notice that your head will move up and back as your spine lengthens. As you develop the habit of sitting with a slight lumbar curve you will be doing a lot for your neck.
Here’s how you can eliminate the stress on your neck while sitting. Find a seat with a hard flat surface. This will give you the most feedback about what position your pelvis is in which ultimately determines the curvature at the low back. Sit squarely with both feet planted on the floor. Envision the tiny coccyx bone at the very bottom of your spine and image you are scooping it under your body. As you do so you will find your spine going into a slumped position. Than do the opposite, drawing your tailbone back so that it is pointing behind you. If your body has the flexibility you waistline will now be pulled forward and you will have an arch at the low back. Now just relax that arch a bit until you have a curve that is soft and without strain. If you have enough flexibility in the pelvis to allow for this you will find that it is a position which brings your head back and up on top of your spine. Not only is this the optimal setup for your neck, it is also the optimal position for you entire spine. This position will even help you to avoid problems in arms such as carpal tunnel syndrome just by providing support for your structure.
Many people come to Rolfing lacking the flexibility to move through these positions. The lack of flexibility represents shortening in the soft tissues including muscle, fascia, tendons of the spine, abdomen, hips and legs. During the process of Rolfing these tissues are elongated and repositioned allowing for full unimpeded movement.
Once you have reached your optimal position for sitting you can move through your spine with length as you reach for objects in front of you. Sitting is not meant to be a static pose. Ideally, when we have good verticality, sitting is a dynamic process with many subtle movements in response to our breath.
Why not explore your potential with a Rolfing series? At Frome Physical Therapy, we are committed to supporting you in Caring For Your Health. Call us now 973.509.8464 or schedule online for your next appointment.
Image Courtesy: An illustration of good sitting posture | www.mlive.com
Children naturally move with freedom and ease. Technology and textbooks are putting these freedoms at risk.
Children today sit far more today than they used to. These days, children have regular access to smartphones, laptops and I-pads. These gadgets create chronic postural stress. Additionally, children sit for long periods of time in schools, placing a huge demand on a child’s structure. Children are physically aging more quickly than ever.
Moreover, children carry absurdly heavy school backpacks. If you factor in all of these postural challenges, it would appear unlikely that our children’s growing malleable bodies would develop healthy posture. In fact according to a study, 70% of children carried their backpacks in a stooped posture.
Posture is a health issue
We generally believe that posture is related to appearance and that is the only concern. More importantly, posture is a health issue.
Poor posture has major implications that affect our well-being:
- Vital organs are compressed to the point where functions relating to respiration, digestion and assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste can be adversely affected.
- Flow of blood is constricted.
- Connective tissue can shorten and limit joint range of motion.
While all this might seem overwhelming you can take the first step to positively impact your child’s health.
- Lighten the load on their back. In fact, it is recommended that children not carry more than 10-15 percent of their weight in backpacks.
- Pick a backpack that fits appropriate to the size of your child. A padded backpack could minimize load on the back.
- Adjust the straps. A backpack should never rest more than 4 inches from the child’s waistline.
- Encourage your child to wear the backpack on both shoulders to even out the weight distribution.
- Speak with authorities at their school if necessary so children are supported to make the change.
- Pack only necessary items required for a school day. Buy used textbooks that could be kept at school in order to reduce the load.
- Consider a Rolfing series for your infant, toddler or child. Rolfing is a wonderful tool to help children develop the template of good posture.
Is there a single recipe for maintaining a healthy spine? Absolutely not! Humans are complex. Each of our bodies have a different history. We come in many shapes and sizes. Some of us are sedentary while others are extreme athletes. Some have desk jobs, others do physical labor. Some have a history of low back problems and some currently suffer from back pain. While we cannot offer one approach that meets everyone’s needs, we can outline some principles for maintaining a healthy back.
Here’s what to do to maintain a healthy back: Stay strong, stay long and stay flexible.
Stay Strong: Develop functional strength. Functional strength helps you to do the activities of your daily life. Functional strength comes from physical activity (walking, running, bicycling, yoga, tai chi) not from lifting weights or working out with machines, which tend to focus on individual muscles. For functional strength, think activity, not exercise.
Functional activities help us to:
Strengthen postural muscles that help to keep us upright.
Increase our aerobic capacity, build stamina and help to strengthen the cardiovascular system.
Strengthen the entire body and enhance our efficiency in work and play.
Stay Long: Maintain a healthy posture in sitting, standing and in all activities. Keeping your body well stacked vertically helps you to move with ease and efficiency. Vertical posture help you keep your length. When our posture becomes stooped, we loose verticality, we lose mobility.
Good sitting posture is critical to maintaining a healthy back. A few key elements to good sitting posture are:
Feet flat on the floor with knees and hips at right angles.
Firm seat base to support upright sitting
Maintain the lumbar lordosis
Break it up. Walk around every 30 minutes.
Avoid sitting in couches, armchairs and beds. They don’t allow you to sit upright and maintain your lumbar lordosis.
Stay Flexible: When we are born, our bodies are highly flexible. As we age, we tend to become progressively stiffer. The lumbar spine has three basic movements:
1. Flexion, or the ability to bend forward.
2. Extension or the ability to bend backward.
3. Lateral flexion or side bending (rotation is part of this movement.)
Why is flexibility important to spinal health? Our lives are filled with normal activities that require full mobility in our backs. When you lose spinal mobility (flexion, extension or lateral flexion) and try to perform normal activities, back pain is produced from the overstretch of spinal ligaments.
Here’s what not to do:
Avoid crunches and leg lifts. Both shorten the hip flexor (psoas) and rectus abdominis muscles. The psoas attaches to the lumbar spine. When it shortens, the mechanics of the spine are distorted. Shortening the rectus abdominis shortens the waistline and also distorts the mechanics of the spine.
At Frome Physical Therapy, over half of our patients come to us with a low back or neck problem. Treatment begins with a thorough Physical Therapy evaluation which reveals the history and nature of your particular back problem and how it developed. A custom tailored treatment program that often includes Five Element Acupuncture, Rolfing and specific exercises that draw from the Physical Therapy, yoga and chi gong traditions.
The contents in this article are not meant to be diagnostic or prescriptive. Back problems are often complex, and a physician should always be consulted before choosing a course of treatment.