Many back pain sufferers struggle with what's causing their pain, not realizing that extensive sitting each day could be the main culprit. In fact, according to a 2012 study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, as many as 70% of people spend six or more hours sitting down each day. It’s likely that the excessive sedentary lifestyles that we lead, coupled with poor posture, is culminating in unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Good posture means that the key parts of a person's body are correctly aligned and supported by the right amount of muscle tension. Proper alignment improves function. Kyphotic or “hunched over” is the term used to reflect the forward positioning of the shoulders with a rounded appearance. This is in contrast to what is generally considered to be good posture with the shoulders pulled back. The extreme version of the shoulders being pulled back is referred to in the medical community as a “lordotic” posture.
The mechanics necessary to assume either the kyphotic or lordotic posture results in muscle imbalances that can, with time, actually become a comfortable state. For example, we see this in a person who hunches over their computer at work for countless hours. These postural imbalances can also be seen in a pianist who is constantly hunched over at the piano. Other forms of imbalances can be seen in an athlete who develops their anterior (front) shoulder muscles, but fails to maintain a symmetrical development of the posterior (back) muscles. This can affect joint alignment as well as muscle and tendon mechanical function. The risk of injury goes up dramatically if the mechanics of the shoulder joint are not optimal.
Efforts to improve postural abnormalities are important to improve function and reduce the risk of injury. However, it may require constant attention to contract the muscles of the posterior shoulder if they have become distorted by the constant “hunching over,” or forward positioning of the shoulder. Therefore, there are proven benefits of utilizing a device, like the Adjustable Posture Helix (pictured above left), to improve this positioning. These benefits include relaxation of the overdeveloped anterior shoulder muscles and an increased awareness of what good posture feels like, helping create the necessary muscle memory for prolonged proper postural alignment.
With proper alignment, there is less tension between opposing muscles and better alignment of tissues attached to those muscles, including tendons, ligaments, and joints. Additionally, joint function is improved and the risk of injury is decreased, especially in sports with repetition, such as golf, paddle sports, and swimming.
The risk of abnormal posture increases with age as the tissues naturally become less flexible and susceptible to sprains and strains. Younger athletes can get away with poor posture but would be much better served to pay attention to good posture as a precursor to enjoying sports for decades into the future. Any athlete, and especially the older athlete, can benefit by paying attention to posture as part of a healthy exercise program.
IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE WHILE SITTING
If you find yourself sitting for extended hours each day, you’ll likely find that the Adjustable Posture Helix, along with the following can help you improve your posture and achieve a proper sitting position:
- Keep your feet flat or rest them on either the floor or a footrest.
- Avoid crossing your knees or ankles.
- Maintain a small gap between the back of your knees and the chair.
- Keep your forearms and knees parallel to the floor when possible.
- Hold your elbows at the sides creating an L-shape in the arms.
- Sit up straight and look forward without straining your neck.
- Keep your back against the chair, or use a backrest or cushion if there are places where the back does not comfortably meet the chair, especially in the lower back region.
- Avoid sitting for long periods at a time, ideally taking at least a 10-minute break for every hour of sitting.