Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is your posture causing your pain?

Back pain, neck pain, and headaches are the most common complaints my clients have when they come to me. While some of their pain may result from a chronic underlying medical condition that requires a doctors care, other causes of aches and pain can be easily managed by making a few simple adjustments in your every day life.

For example, one of the most effective ways to lessen the amount of pain you experience daily would be to improve your posture. You see, the human body wasn't designed to be slumped over a computer, texting on the phone, or surfing the net on a tablet. Instead, it was designed to move - to be out in a field chasing after our meals (harvesting if you are a vegetarian) or running away from what was about to make us their main course.

However, seeing as it's the 21st century, I can't imagine that our dependence on technology or modern living is going away anytime soon especially when our livelihood depends on it. And although  we may not easily be able to change our career paths, we can easily change the way we sit and move about in our workplaces.

If you are like the average desk jockey, your tend to work while slumped forward, diligently droning away at your desk. However, this position puts a lot of strain on the lumbar spine which can subsequently add to low back pain. The use of a computer mouse usually causes our dominant arm to rest in a forward position, and since we are carefully looking at our computer screens, we also tend to project our head forward as well. (see the above pic)

So how should we be sitting? Well, there really isn't a "perfect" way to do this, but what we can do is strive to maintain a "neutral spine" position as often as possible. Most importantly, you can set up your workstation to prep you for pain-reducing posture. Below are a few tips to help you do this:

  • Avoid working on a laptop whenever possible.

  • Set up your monitor so that you are not looking straight ahead at the screen, but just about 10° down from straight. Hint: you shouldn't be craning your neck forward or rounding your shoulders just to see the screen.

  • Add a foot rest beneath your desk. This realigns your entire lower body, putting more weight on to the hips and butt muscles, thereby placing less stress on your lower back.


Additionally, you should be limiting your time at the desk. Take frequent breaks to stand and stretch. What you should stretch includes your neck, chest, shoulders and back of your legs. Set the timer on your smart phone to remind you to take a few minutes every hour or so to do this. These short breaks will not only be better for your health and help minimize pain, but will also help you be more productive at your job.

Taking the time to manage your pain with these few preventative steps can add years of pain-free movement to your life. While taking these steps may not cure you of chronic pain, it is the combined efforts of these tips plus exercise, massage therapy, meditation, medication and medical care, that does the trick.

Listen to your body,

John Aaron Villarreal

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