5 ways to improve your posture & relieve back pain
We all start off like this but something starts to wrong soon after we start school but we can do something ourselves to restore some of our natural poise by noticing our postural habits. Here are some useful tips to sit better and improve your overall posture.
#1 What type of chair are you sitting on?
I prefer a plain old stool, Chair backs make you lazy and stop your postural muscles in your back from working.
#2 Locate your sitting bones and use them!
While sitting slide your hand underneath your bottom and locate the two nobbley bits - these are your sitting bones and form the basis of the support for your upper body when sitting. Now slump, what do you notice (you are no longer sitting on your sitting bones). So find your sit bones again - you will probably feel more balanced and poised and on your way to better posture.
#3 Wear your invisible crown
Think that you are wearing an invisible crown and think into the top of your head as your spine lengthens towards the crown of your head. Alternatively you could think of the upper molars (the teeth at the back) coming away from your sitting bones. You may get a sense of your torso lengthening at this point.
#4 Notice where your feet are
Are your feet tucked under the chair or your legs crossed? We all know these are bad habits, but seriously they are bad habits which may cause us to overarch our lower spine as we need our legs and feet to help support the weight of our upper body.
#5 Notice any tension in your shoulders
Observe any tension in your shoulders and allow them to soften. Slumping causes us to have rounded shoulders and a rounded upper torso, which ultimately can develop into a dowagers hump.
So to recap, we now know we have sit bones, so try using them more. Why not put a post it note on the edge of your computer screen to remind you. We can think into our invisible crown and notice if our shoulders are opening out naturally or are they rounded or raised.
Apply these basic skills and you are on your way to having better posture.
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Does back pain run in families?
I read today in the US survey of Back and Neck Pain that 21% of respondants thought it ran in the family. This I found very interesting because apart from a few heredetary conditions, back and neck pain are unlikely to be inherited. So what is going on here?
Human beings are very strange we often adopt behaviours and habits from the people we spend most time with. We are all very aware at how good children are at mimicking adults from an early age, well what if children subconsciously follow our own habits and look very like us as adults.
If you slump in a chair a lot at home, or if you have an usual gait when you walk or tilt your head to one side when you talk. Maybe your children or family members pick up these habits too.
So what I am suggesting is that back pain may be as a result of habits we pick up from an early age.
I am aware myself that within my family there is a history of back problems. Interestingly my father often walks around tightening at the hips in a slight stoop and then walks with his hands clasped behind his back. On occasion before I discovered the nature of habit with the Alexander Technique I was known to walk like this too. I had also back problems in the past.
Maybe bad backs do run in families but it maybe down to the way we use our bodies not down to a heredetary musculoskeletal condition.
Next time you go for a walk observe what you might be doing with your body. Do you bounce up and down, do you lean back with your hips and pull your shoulders back. Watch other people walking its quite amusing as you will see all kinds of strange habits when walking. Clearly the lady above has not developed any bad habits when walking.
How to use a standing desk and avoid back pain
If you are considering purchasing a standing desk or already use one it's worthwhile thinking about how you are going to stand.
Many people will go to their habitual posture that they use when lowering their gaze to look at something. Often this will involve collapse of the torso particularly around the chest area, which in turn will cause your shoulders to round, this will also prevent your arms and shoulders to work at the optimum - the very thing you are going to need when working at your desk and computer.
There may also be a resultant compensatory adjustment to your balance, involving your lower back and you may start to get back pain.
If the head drops forward as it will probably do as the weight of the head is 60% forward then it will also result in neck pain too.
Did you know that the average head weighs 10-14lbs similar to this bowling ball?
Quite a shock when I pass a bowling ball around when I give introductory talks on the Alexander Technique, and how misuse of the head, neck back relationship can cause pain.
So how do we stand effectively at a standing desk?
* First of all get yourself set up properly so that your desk is at a height that you don't have to stoop to work at it, Your arms should rest gently on the desk with elbows just lower than 90 degrees.
* Then think of the support of the ground. Think of a tripod of support behind your big toe, little toe & heel. To sense this point of balance try rocking forwards and backwards until you find your centre of balance.
* Then rather than thinking of the 10lb bowling ball sitting on top of your spine think of a light football, think of your torso lengthening and your shoulders widening particularly across the upper chest. You are now set up nicely in balance to start work at your desk and avoiding the many pitfalls associated with standing, particularly lower back pain.
* You can now just allow your gaze to look towards your computer. Notice if your balance changes. If it does noticably you might be better having one foot a fraction in front of the other. Awareness of the balance point of the head is critical here, its much higher up than you think - in fact its between the ears. Try placing your fingers on your ears and gently nod your head up and down to get an idea of this balance point. Now when you look at your computer be quietly aware of this balance point of your head, it will put much less strain on your neck.
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