Keeping the spine and joints in proper alignment, and having the proper foot position while sitting or sleeping helps improve both your physical performance and your performance at work.
Medical Advisor: Alexánder Albarracín Pinzón. Physiatrist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
As you read this article, almost automatically you are likely to change your posture: straighten your back, align your shoulders, and continue reading. But have you ever asked yourself how many hours you have spent in a bad posture today?
Perhaps it is not an easy question to answer, but many times, without realizing and it because of our workplace conditions, implementing a certain posture is something we do not pay much attention to until muscle and bone pain become an issue.
Sitting correctly, standing properly and sleeping the right way is almost a science in itself, as it should be. “When you stay in the same position throughout the duration of a work day, sitting for example, your muscles build up tension and put pressure on their internal structure, which can cause shoulder, neck and arm pain. Over time, this pain can become uncomfortable,” Alexánder Albarracín Pinzón explains, a medical specialist in physiatry.
He adds that standing for long hours can take a heavy toll on the spine, which can lead to back pain, especially in the lower back.
Enough can’t be said about those that spend hours and hours on cell phones and tablets. The misuse of these electronic devices has already brought on cases of carpal tunnel, tendonitis and epicondylitis or “tennis elbow” in those that overuse them or in those that chat for long periods of time. Neck pain is also common in these cases.
“If you were to put a human head on a scale, it would weigh about 11 pounds. But the further ahead it is from the body, the heavier it will be. Having your head bent forward is therefore harmful to the neck because it can wear down the vertebral discs, osteophytes (beak-shaped projections on the vertebrae also known as “bone spurs”) and even cause joint degeneration. Therefore, the best position is to raise your arms and bring the device to eye-level so that the spine is extending straight and is not bent or in a position that inverts its natural curve,” explains Gabriela Christ, a chiropractor at the clinic Quirovida.
When using a cell phone to make a phone call, the recommendation is to go hands-free. If this is not an option for you, it is important to support your arm on a structure to avoid creating tension.
While pain is the first warning sign of bad posture, other more obvious symptoms can include tingling sensations, limbs that fall asleep, and muscle fatigue or rapid muscle fatigue in the neck or back areas prior to doing any physical activity. Once the problem has been established, however, changes can occur that affect the musculoskeletal system.
Other signs that can warn of bad posture can be detected by just taking a look in the mirror and include having one shoulder higher than another, a head that slants forward, one hip that is higher than the other, and of course having a limp in your walk. “Having bad posture day after day is related to musculoskeletal conditions including deformities, inflammation, and neurological problems that can affect the back, limbs and peripheral nerves, for example,” Albarracín explains.
When pain symptoms arise, it is best to leave behind the unsuitable, vicious position of your posture and stretch your arms, legs and back. When this pain persists, however, see your doctor and use physical remedies such as applying heat, cold, and gels or balms to relax the muscles and reduce the pain. It is important to be careful when self-medicating as many people do not know if they are allergic to a certain drug or if the pain is the result of an underlying condition and not necessarily due to bad posture.
How do I maintain good posture?
It is important to understand that having normal posture helps prevent premature bone degeneration, it adds more years to the body’s physical function, reduces fatigue and prevents the onset of conditions in the bones and muscles at a young age.
The general recommendation is to customize your work environment to fit your needs, make sure you have good ergonomic conditions and take 10-minute active breaks every hour. Remember, time is the worst enemy when it comes to treating problems that are a result of bad body posture. When a problem is detected, it is best to take action
5 to 10 minutes of an active break is enough time to let your body relax from the position it is in.
Whether sitting, standing or lying down, take care of your posture
- For those who spend most of their day sitting: Use a chair that allows you to maintain the natural curves of the spine and keep your shoulders relaxed, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, and your wrists straight.
- For those that spend most of their day standing: Sit down once an hour for between five and ten minutes. One recommendation is to use a support or box in order to alternate the use of your legs and lift them up and rest. Always stand on both feet so as not to alter your balance.
- When sleeping: The recommendation is to lie on your side with a pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned, to use a pillow that helps keep the spine straight and to hug something to keep the joints aligned. Try not to sleep face down or face up.
60 years of age is the age-limit for someone without any body deformations to modify their posture. This is due to the aging of the bones.