How important is good posture to your health?

Make sure you’re no slouch with our tips to improve your posture

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As kids, we were always being told to sit up straight. Yet as we grew up, left home and settled into desk jobs and becoming couch potatoes, something slipped – and it’s our posture.

You might not give it a second thought, as you type hunched over your desk, or sit eating dinner with shoulders slumped.

But from your bad back to your niggling neck, your poor posture might be more harmful than you think, says physiotherapist Amy Gilbert.

Root causes

“Hundreds of years ago, we never sat down, we were always hunting and fighting; but now modern technology has encouraged us to spend the majority of our day sitting,”
Amy comments.

A generation glued to our iPhones, the desk job has seen a firm end to our hunter-gatherer days, and with it, a steep rise in joint and muscular pain.

“A good 50 to 60 percent of my caseload is postural,” says Amy. “The most common things I see in practice are neck and lower back pain.

“What’s happening is that our anterior chain muscles (the muscles on the front of your body including your pectorals and core) have become tight and short as we’ve developed those hunched shoulders, while our posterior muscles get weak and lengthened – and then we can develop a lot of problems.

“Just on your muscular system, bad posture causes long-term tightness and trigger points, a tight knot in the muscle,” Amy continues. “A muscle is meant to activate and support
your joint system, but if it’s tight all the time, it pulls on them.

“This can cause things like impingement, where the muscles change the actual position of the joint.”

And from impingement to disk herniation, not sitting properly can cause lifelong issues.

“This doesn’t happen within a week,” Amy adds. “This is years of prolonged sitting. We all think it doesn’t matter.

“This all sounds really negative,” she laughs, “but the wonderful thing is that it’s correctable with exercise and advice.”

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Straightening up

So, how do you fix a whole lifetime of slouching?

“I advise people to get a standing desk or use an exercise ball to sit on in the workplace,” Amy says. “You need to actually use your muscles to sit – and if you don’t use them on a Swiss ball, you’re going to fall off.

“I’d also advise people to do a few stretches, if you can, three times a day – even if you have to set a reminder,” she adds.

Outside the office, Amy recommends trying out Pilates or yoga, which help activate smaller stabilising muscles.

“It can be as simple as moving your keyboard a few centimetres and elevating your screen,” Amy adds. “It’s about teaching people about their body and it can be small changes – you could start making them tomorrow.”

To see more of Amy’s tips or get in touch, contact: 050 192 7205, instagram.com/agilbertphysio. Watch this space for the opening of Amy’s new clinic, Perfect Balance Rehabilitation Centre in October.

Need a quick fix? Try these 

Sitting-well

DO get a supportive chair:

“You need a chair that’s height adjustable, with adjustable arm rests – and even better if it has an adjustable tilt,” Amy says. “Having a good chair is key, and you need good lumbar support.”

DON’T cross your legs:

“Hips and knees need to be at 90 degrees,” Amy advises. “You want to avoid a sloping angle, and you want your feet flat on the floor – and no crossed legs.”

DO adjust your screen:

To avoid straining, Amy recommends adjusting your computer screen to eye level. “If you’re working on a laptop, get a wireless keyboard – that way you can prop your laptop up on a book to stop hunching forward.”

DON’T sit still:

Get the blood moving every 30 minutes with a 30-second walk, or just to stretch.

DO keep your keyboard close:

“Elbows should be kept at 90 degrees. With laptops, get a wireless keyboard so you can keep your screen at eye level and your keyboard closer to you,” Amy says.

WORDS Camille Hogg

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