Being aware of your posture is the first step in correcting it. There are tricks and tips to keeping your head, neck and shoulders in the proper position during the day and while sleeping.
We know slouching is bad, but how can you tell if you are maintaining the best possible posture?
Dr. Gary Weinstein: The best way to tell if you’re maintaining the proper posture is just to be aware. We try to teach our patients to become aware of how they’re sitting, how they’re standing, how they’re watching television in the evenings. The awareness factor is the biggest factor to tell if you’re maintaining good posture. We all know what good posture is. It is sitting up straight. It is bringing the head back over the shoulders. We don’t want that forward head posture. We want that head back over the shoulders. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of bad posture, and it is due to our lifestyles. The bad posture is pretty much the work injury of the new millennium.
Back when I started practice, we still had industrial areas around here in Pittsburgh where we had more lower back injuries, the sprains, strains, things like that. Now we are seeing the injuries manifesting, and symptoms manifesting, more from the computer work, work on our cellphones, texting, all with the forward head posture.
How do you tell if you’re maintaining it? It is to be aware of it.
What are some tips for sitting up straight in a desk chair?
Dr. Gary Weinstein: One of the things we teach our patients to do, or try to have our patients do, is actually set their phone, and set it at 15 or half hour intervals, and have an alarm go off. It could be just a slight buzz, something like that, so that when they hear that alarm, they then sit back up straight, bring their head back, proper posture, and working at the desk that way.
As time goes on, what you’ll find is that at a half hour interval, it’ll go off, and you’re sitting up straight. Then fine, move it to a half hour, move it to 45 minutes, move it to an hour. Extend that until sitting up straight becomes a habit for you. It is something that needs to be worked on. It is not something that just comes naturally.
Do we need to worry about our posture while we sleep?
Dr. Gary Weinstein: Yes. This becomes a very difficult area, because sleeping patterns and habits are extremely difficult to break and to change. One of the worst things that we can do is to sleep on our back with our chin tucked forward. That one-inch forward head posture causes a 30% decrease in our vital capacity, our ability to breathe, and now we are wondering why everybody and their brother has sleep apnea now.
The goal that we have for our patients is that we have them do some exercises using what is called a Pro-Lordotic Neck Exerciser. To go into it, it is a band that we use to work the cervical curve. Then lie over a Denneroll, but the average person can loosen up their neck, lie over a rolled up towel about three to four inches in diameter, and lie there for 20 minutes. It takes 20 minutes on their back, 20 minutes, no pillow. It takes about 20 minutes for the discs to go from the semi-liquid to a semi-solid state, as they firm up over the course of 20 minutes. At that point, then there is not enough activity while you’re sleeping to get rid of the cervical curve in there. Those discs are firmed up that way, and it’s an extremely beneficial way to prepare yourself for going to sleep.
Are there exercises that we can do to improve our posture?
Dr. Gary Weinstein: Absolutely, and part of what I just described are some of the exercises, along with getting adjusted, where we actually change the structure of the spine. But you can put your heels, your buttocks, your shoulders, against the wall. Then touch the back of your head to that wall, and pull your head straight back. Not extending it, but push it straight back into that wall to work those musculature that way.
One of the things that we find here in the United States is that when we walk, we tend to rotate our thumbs inward towards our body. This tends to then allow us to round our shoulders, bringing the head forward, the bad posture, the chicken neck, so to speak. Look, if people were just, when they walk, to slightly externally rotate their thumbs and point their thumbs outward, if you stand up straight and do that, you’ll feel how that pulls the shoulders back, brings the shoulder blades back together, pulling you back, bringing you into better posture. It is slight habits like this that make all the difference in the world.
What tips can we give kids to help them maintain good posture, especially while using handheld electronics, like iPads and tablets and game controllers?
Dr. Gary Weinstein: The best tip is to go outside and play. Get rid of that stuff and go outside and play and be a kid. I understand that doesn’t work. When things are done, they should be done at eye level, or slightly above, not with that head in flexion there. And if you are using game controllers, the head should be up. Most kids can use these game controllers without looking at them. I am old school. I still have to look at the keyboard when I am working on the computer or typewriter. Most people don’t even have a typewriter anymore. But it is working to maintain their posture.
The parents need to constantly remind them, good posture, shoulders back, head up. Hold your equipment up, and work with it at eye level or slightly above, not this tucked down by the chest and the head bent forward. It is something that not only do the kids have to be aware of, but as parents and grandparents, we need to be aware of it, so that when we see this is going on, we can then correct the child and tell them, “Sit up straight, up straight.” Parents back in my day, we did that.
Then for some reason, there’s a generation where, I don’t know, we want to be nicer to our kids, but are we being nicer if we are then allowing them to create this bad posture, which then leads to a snowballing effect of detrimental health on through their future years. Primarily, kids have to be aware, but parents and adults have to be aware. Have these kids sit up straight, do that. The more they get outside, the more they play, the better off they are, as well.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Gary Weinstein visit www.weinsteinchiro.com or call 412-269-0444 to schedule an appointment.