Did you know that sitting posture and work habits play an important role in exacerbating or preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)? In a previous article “Does Rolfing Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?” we explored what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is and how Rolfing can help you recover from this problem. This article will explore the role that sitting posture has on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and how Rolfing can help you to achieve and maintain good posture.
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Most of us have a great deal of confusion about how to sit well. Sitting posture is an important health issue. People often think their neck or low back problem comes from a traumatic injury, but this is often not the case. Poor sitting posture puts your spine at risk.
Consider the architecture of the spine. Both the neck and low back have a lordosis or arch. Each vertebrae is actually wedged shaped to support these normal curves of the spine.
Try this exercise. Stand with both feet on the ground and look straight ahead. First place your hands on your low back. Do the same with your hands on the back of the neck. Can you feel each of the lordotic curves?
Poor sitting posture reverses these curves and puts pressure on the soft tissue structures. Over time, chronic and static pressure on the spine can distort the shape and efficiency of the soft tissue. When people say, “I have a slipped or herniated disc”, most often it is due to poor sitting postures.
Over time, years of poor sitting can lead to shortenings in the structure that make it difficult to sit and stand erect.
Hallmarks Of Poor Sitting Posture
- Slouching or Slumping: Most people sit with their pelvis tipped backwards, buttocks forward in the seat and the spine rounded in a C curve.
- Hunching: People often lean forward over work or over their cell phone with the spine rounded in a C curve.
- Cradling: Many of us hold the phone with our ear, putting a static strain on the neck.
- Crossing your legs: This usually tilts your pelvis backwards and rounds the spine.
Six Guidelines To Good Sitting Posture
- Avoid Static Postures: That’s right, the first rule of ergonomics is to avoid static postures. Set a timer and get out of your chair at least three times each hour. Also, shift your position often while you sit to change the stresses throughout the body.
- The Right Seat Height: Chair height should be different for each person. Ideally, the chair should
be high enough for the hips to be a little higher than the knees with both of your feet parallel and flat on the ground.
- Find Your Sit Bones: The ischial tuberosities are at the bottom of the pelvis and should form the base of support for your spine.
- Sit Tall: Ideally, the ear, shoulder and hip should be on a vertical axis.
- Maintain Your Lordosis: Poor sitting posture can flatten low back and neck curves. Consider using a lumbar cushion to help support the spines inherent architecture.
- Bring Your Bottom Back: Move your buttocks all the way back in the seat.
Featured Image Credit:www.undesk.com
Sitting is stressful, especially if it is endured for long hours. If you are sitting in a slumped position than you have lost your head. “Lost” meaning your head is no longer on top where it functions best. Instead, your upper back, shoulder and neck muscles are making a heroic effort to support your head.
Sitting habitually without a lumbar lordosis (low back curve) is a precursor for neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Hence the invention of lumbar support, to help you maintain that crucial curve even when sitting for long periods of time.
The good news is that by restoring the lumbar curve, your trunk becomes more vertical and your head moves back on top were it belongs. Balance in sitting is critical to having a healthy spine.
Check it out in the mirror. Sit sideways and watch your entire body profile as you slump with into a C curve. Watch what happens to you head and neck. The head drops forward as the entire front of the body shortens. Then, decrease that C curve by moving the waistline forward and see what happens to your head and neck. Notice that your head will move up and back as your spine lengthens. As you develop the habit of sitting with a slight lumbar curve you will be doing a lot for your neck.
Here’s how you can eliminate the stress on your neck while sitting. Find a seat with a hard flat surface. This will give you the most feedback about what position your pelvis is in which ultimately determines the curvature at the low back. Sit squarely with both feet planted on the floor. Envision the tiny coccyx bone at the very bottom of your spine and image you are scooping it under your body. As you do so you will find your spine going into a slumped position. Than do the opposite, drawing your tailbone back so that it is pointing behind you. If your body has the flexibility you waistline will now be pulled forward and you will have an arch at the low back. Now just relax that arch a bit until you have a curve that is soft and without strain. If you have enough flexibility in the pelvis to allow for this you will find that it is a position which brings your head back and up on top of your spine. Not only is this the optimal setup for your neck, it is also the optimal position for you entire spine. This position will even help you to avoid problems in arms such as carpal tunnel syndrome just by providing support for your structure.
Many people come to Rolfing lacking the flexibility to move through these positions. The lack of flexibility represents shortening in the soft tissues including muscle, fascia, tendons of the spine, abdomen, hips and legs. During the process of Rolfing these tissues are elongated and repositioned allowing for full unimpeded movement.
Once you have reached your optimal position for sitting you can move through your spine with length as you reach for objects in front of you. Sitting is not meant to be a static pose. Ideally, when we have good verticality, sitting is a dynamic process with many subtle movements in response to our breath.
Why not explore your potential with a Rolfing series? At Frome Physical Therapy, we are committed to supporting you in Caring For Your Health. Call us now 973.509.8464 or schedule online for your next appointment.
Image Courtesy: An illustration of good sitting posture | www.mlive.com
Children naturally move with freedom and ease. Technology and textbooks are putting these freedoms at risk.
Children today sit far more today than they used to. These days, children have regular access to smartphones, laptops and I-pads. These gadgets create chronic postural stress. Additionally, children sit for long periods of time in schools, placing a huge demand on a child’s structure. Children are physically aging more quickly than ever.
Moreover, children carry absurdly heavy school backpacks. If you factor in all of these postural challenges, it would appear unlikely that our children’s growing malleable bodies would develop healthy posture. In fact according to a study, 70% of children carried their backpacks in a stooped posture.
Posture is a health issue
We generally believe that posture is related to appearance and that is the only concern. More importantly, posture is a health issue.
Poor posture has major implications that affect our well-being:
- Vital organs are compressed to the point where functions relating to respiration, digestion and assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste can be adversely affected.
- Flow of blood is constricted.
- Connective tissue can shorten and limit joint range of motion.
While all this might seem overwhelming you can take the first step to positively impact your child’s health.
- Lighten the load on their back. In fact, it is recommended that children not carry more than 10-15 percent of their weight in backpacks.
- Pick a backpack that fits appropriate to the size of your child. A padded backpack could minimize load on the back.
- Adjust the straps. A backpack should never rest more than 4 inches from the child’s waistline.
- Encourage your child to wear the backpack on both shoulders to even out the weight distribution.
- Speak with authorities at their school if necessary so children are supported to make the change.
- Pack only necessary items required for a school day. Buy used textbooks that could be kept at school in order to reduce the load.
- Consider a Rolfing series for your infant, toddler or child. Rolfing is a wonderful tool to help children develop the template of good posture.
Have you ever wondered if you would wind up like your grandma, or the senior citizen who is stooped over and shuffling across the street? You might have commanded yourself to sit up straight and practice good posture in order to avoid the fate of this older person you hope never to become.
How did grandma’s body shrink and why is she looking at the ground instead of straight ahead?
Forward rounding of the upper back is often referred to as hunchback or Dowagers Hump. The medical term is dorsal kyphosis. Kyphosis is an exaggerated, forward rounding of the back that can occur at any age but is most common in older women.
One thing is certain, while cell phones and text messaging do put a great strain on the upper back neck and shoulders, they are not what lead to grandma’s hunchback. No doubt about it, as we sit with our heads drooping forward and our upper back rounded, we are compromising our spines.
Over time, poor posture leads to overstretching of the ligaments and muscles that support the vertebrae. Laxity of the strap like paraspinal muscles, ligaments and other supporting tissues that run along either side of the spinal column give way for the spine to move from the vertical to the horizontal plane. As the support system for the vertebrae becomes over stretched the bones can move out of alignment , resulting in a kyphotic spine and predisposing one to pain, poor circulation, breathing issues, herniations, arthritis and other unwanted conditions.
Poor posture in childhood, such as slouching, leaning back in chairs and carrying heavy school bags, can also cause the ligaments and muscles that support the vertebrae to stretch. This can pull the thoracic vertebrae out of their normal position setting the stage for kyphosis.
Childhood is a perfect time to develop good postural habits and monitor the book bag burden. Early interventions, including Rolfing, can save a lot of children from developing age related postural kyphosis later in life.
Osteoporosis can lead to compression and deterioration of the spinal bones. This degeneration of the vertebrae may have caused grandma’s upper spine to round forward and lose it’s vertical alignment.
The more the spine moves off center, the greater the energy and muscular effort required to hold oneself up. For every inch that your head protrudes forward from its normal alignment, you add approximately an extra 10 pounds of force to support your head upon your neck.
This extra effort causes pliable soft tissue structures to harden as one works against gravity to keep their head up resulting in bracing, tension and pain. As soft tissue structures solidify, muscles, fascia and soft tissue of the entire upper trunk lose their ability to move. The upper trunk becomes wrapped in a tight soft tissue corset making it impossible to stand erect. Deep breathing which requires rib, diaphragmatic and spinal movement is hindered. Kyphosis is also associated with tight chest and hip flexor muscles.
Making attempts to sit and stand up straight are a good beginning, however as soon as your mind moves onto the next thought your body is likely to resort to its habitual posture. Our structure plays a key role in our posture. While our bodies are a collection of parts (muscles, bones, organs) what keeps these parts together and in relationship to each other, is the fascia or connective tissues. When you look at a person’s posture, you see the underlying relationships that are set in the structure. Shortenings within the structure have a direct and constant influence on posture. Tight, shortened pectoral muscles do not allow the shoulders to come back and the chest to open. Shortened inflexible paraspinal muscles do not allow the spine to extend and the head to sit comfortably on top of the spine.
During the 1920’s Ida Rolf, a young biochemist, began to see the important role that fascia plays on the shape of our bodies as well as posture. Over decades of research and practice she explored the vital role fascia plays in how our bodies are shaped by our experience. How we used our bodies in both work and play, the injuries, surgeries and illnesses we have endured and emotional history all determine our structural pattern and shape. Rolf began with the insight that fascia is not unyielding but can change with manual manipulation. This premise gave birth to Rolfing also known as Structural Integration.
Rolfing can help bring a kyphotic spine back on to its vertical axis. By balancing the tensions in the soft tissue network, Rolfing realigns the structure and provides the framework for an upright posture.