Posture key to avoiding pain and preventing injury

To prevent injury and avoid pain, posture is everything.

Well, maybe not everything… but it certainly factors in a lot when it comes to your health.

Posture can be the root of many painful symptoms, including wrist, forearm, shoulder, neck, back, hip, and knee pain.

Basically, all of your joints are affected when you don’t have proper posture. In our daily lives, we submit ourselves to hours behind a desk and computer, and often find ourselves becoming shorter and shorter as the day goes on, slouching down into our ergonomically-expensive chairs.

Faulty posture can cause pain, which should always be viewed as a warning sign. It is a wake-up call that something isn’t quite right. Despite the negative feeling of pain, it is quite a useful sensation, alerting us to problems.

As a physiotherapist, a large percentage of patients I treat are clients who did not have any traumatic event; they instead noticed a gradual onset of pain.

Often, this insidious pain is caused by repetitive stressors brought on by faulty posture. Our daily repetitive motions and bad ergonomics can strain our bodies to the point of pain. Since the pain was brought on without trauma, often people tend to minimise their complaints, stating “I am just getting old,” or “It’s just arthritis, I have to live with it”.

To the contrary, most of people’s daily aches and pains can be effectively treated with physiotherapy.

There are certain rules of sitting posture which we all should follow at work.

First, start with your feet flat on the floor. You should have a 90 degree bend in your knees and hips. Make adjustments to your seat height as needed.

There should be a natural curve of your lower (lumbar) spine, with your back resting on the back of the chair. Shoulders should be down, away from your ears, and shoulder blades squeezed slightly.

Forearms should be bent at 90 degrees, with the keyboard directly in front. Wrists should be in a neutral position when typing, not extended or flexed. Ears should be in line with shoulders.

Computer screen should be directly in front of you.

One tip I love to give my clients is to put their fist on their sternum (the hard breastbone just under your chin). Keeping the fist on the sternum, raise your index finger.

Once raised, your finger should be directly in front of your chin. If it isn’t, think of tucking your chin back, like a turtle retreating into its shell. This will return you to your natural alignment.

Pain is not something that should be ignored. It is not something that simply comes with age. Pain is always a warning sign to underlying conditions that can be fixed with proper treatment.

If pain is keeping you from living your best life, consult with your physician first, then set up a consultation with a physiotherapist.

Dr. Amanda VanDyk is a physiotherapist based in the Cayman Islands.

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