Are you standing tall? In my line of business I see a lot people with back issues.
Some of them have diagnosed medical issues, however a large percentage don’t, but still suffer. One of the big reasons that can be so often over looked, but can make a huge difference is POSTURE.
pos.ture [Noun- A position of a person’s body when standing or sitting: ‘Good posture will protect your spine’]
Or bad posture to be more precise. Having good posture is tantamount to having a healthy spine. Posture is important no matter what you’re doing… its how you hold your body correctly that allows the muscles to do the job that they are supposed to.
If you sit at a desk hunched over a computer all day, if you are on your feet all day for work, if you drive for long periods of time, hey, even if you’re a 6ft tall women and self-conscious of your height, all of these things and many more can have a negative effect on your spine if you don’t focus on how you support your body. When we do things in a repetitive way, it’s very easy for us to become complacent and unfocused on how we support our bodies.
To make positive changes takes a little time and focus. This doesn’t have to be a constant thought process in the long term, but it certainly does take a little perseverance to start with. Ultimately, for most of us, it means changing bad movement patterns that have been set up in the body over years.
So let’s see if you recognise yourself here.
The Rounded Shoulder Brigade
We’ll start with the rounded shoulder brigade. Quite often seen on people who sit hunched over a computer for a large amount of time. Or someone who is tall and self conscious of their height (…me at 13 years old!) What tends to happen here is that the head weight drops forward and down. This in turn causes strain and pain across the neck and shoulders. If this is you at work try altering your screen height or chair height where appropriate so that you are looking out at eye level. (Most companies are pretty good at making sure your work space is right for you as they don’t want you to have to take time off due to back issues!)
Outside of a work environment when you are walking make sure you are not looking down at the ground, look straight ahead at eye level, imagining that someone is pulling you from the top of your head up towards the sky thus working to lengthen your spine. As you do this pull your belly button towards your spine and breath, enjoy your walk while standing tall!
The Hunched Shoulder Brigade
Then comes the hunched shoulder brigade, these are the people who like to wear their shoulders as earrings! There could be many reasons for this from stress or outlook on life, to constantly warding of the cold (we know how that one happens in the UK!). To help yourself if this is you, imagine widening the outer most parts your shoulders out and drawing your shoulder blades gently in and down on the spine, while making sure you are looking out at eye level as above and pulling the belly button towards the spine.
The Lower Back Slumpers
Lastly the lower back slumpers, this covers a huge spectrum of back pain sufferers, who suffer for many reasons. It could be standing or doing the same repetitive movement for 8 hours a day for work. Are you a stander? Make sure you are standing on both feet, big toe joint, little toe joint and heel of both feet in to the floor. Don’t lock your knees back. And gently lengthen your tail bone down to the floor while pulling your belly button towards your spine.
If you do a repetitive movement for a large proportion of your time, always make sure you pull the belly button towards the spine and soften the joints if you are bending or picking anything up. If you drive for long periods of time make sure you are sitting up tall on your pelvis. Sometimes putting a hard cushion or even large hardback book on your carseat under your bum will give you more feedback and help make you aware of how you are sitting.
For us tall gals all of these could be relevant, especially if you hit your amazing tallness early in life when being the giant among your friends didn’t feel so much fun. I know I’ve been there!
So you may have noticed the constant through all of the examples above is the use of the abdominals. Most of what we do day to day should originate from the support of the core. However, more often than not it doesn’t. It is usually through weakness or lack of use of these muscles that general back pain becomes a problem.
You can still make changes. No matter what stage you are in life… you have the ability to improve your posture.
These are general guidelines to help with general back pain. Please do go and see your GP if you are struggling with persistent pain that doesn’t go away.