Working several hours a day isn’t an easy feat, yet we all do it every day, for weeks, months, years, possibly decades. Our jobs are a valuable part of our lives. They allow us to earn money, stay active, and give us purpose.
Many jobs require employees to sit or stand in one location for hours at a time. This page is a quick guide to maintain the best standing posture, to avoid the possible insidious problems caused by poor standing posture.
Insidious is the best possible term for the type of problems that arise from poor posture. They start very slow, taking years to finally fully manifest, but that very manifestation was a slow progression of very specific muscles weakening while others are forcibly stretched, and injured.
Proper posture is standing upright, with the pelvis in line with the shoulders. The ear, shoulder, pelvis and ankle should line up in one straight line.
The first and third image shown will, in time, end up with moderate headaches, shoulder tension, knee pain, and low back pain. These symptoms can further manifest into migraines, carpal tunnel like pain, and arthritis.
Not only do these postures wear on the joints, but they cause repetitive strain injuries to the muscles which cause them to fatigue much more easily. This causes much higher likelihood that the worker will be much more tired before or after working, and thus more likely to cause mistakes or possibly injure themselves.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between proper and poor posture.
From the images above, its pretty easy to know what poor posture is, and which is good posture. What are the problems with image B, as compared to image A, through chiropractic eyes?
1. Chin Tucked – This will give the image of the dreaded “Double Chin” where one doesn’t exist. The head is also forward from the rest of the body, thus causing an increased strain to the scalene muscles, on the sides of the neck, as well as the trapezius muscles on the top and back of the shoulders.
2. The neck is relatively straight, in the middle, then sharply turned at the base of the skull. This adds further strain to the tiny sub-occipital muscles at the base of the skull, while minimizing the “shock absorbing” features of the cervical spine curvature, known as the cervical lordosis.
3. The mid back is overly curved at the top, and flat in the middle. This is known as a hyperkyphosis in the upper thoracic spine, and a hypokyphosis in the lower thoracic. In the new technologic age, computer/cell phone use is slowly moving the “pivot” point of the thoracic spine from T8 and T9, up much further to T4 and T5. We “hunch” much more than we used to. This adds strain to the upper back and neck musculature, while weakening the mid to lower thoracic muscles. In the long term, this creates a situation where the thoracic spine and both shoulders not only lose mobility, but stability and strength.
4. The shoulders are rolled forward, further weakening the mid back and contracting the big strong pectoralis major on the anterior chest. These muscles are for moving objects, not standing in a solid posture. They become tired fast, and then sore. While in this contracted state, the mid neck and lower thoracic are inhibited, and cannot function properly, adding more weakness to their already over stretched, under utilized state.
5. No lumbar curve. The lumbar spine has the biggest, thickest vertebrae, as well as the largest intervertebral discs. This allows for it to be the best shock absorber in the body. The spine must be curved, in a similar way to the cervical spine (if the cervical spine has the curve it should), known as the lumbar lordosis. If this curve is absent, the abdominal muscles will be underutilized and weakened. This dramatically increases the risk of a vertebral disc injury in the future.
6. Flat weak abdominal muscles. A flat stomach is very good, but a flabby, weak, underutilized stomach is not. The lack of a lumbar curve causes an over-activation of the muscles immediately beside the spine. This over-activation causes a reflexive inhibition of the abdominal muscles. This creates an incredibly unstable lumbar spine structure.
7. Flat butt and tight hamstrings. Without a lumbar curve, the buttocks is very flattened, and again, inhibited. This is due to over activity of the hamstrings, because of the angle of the pelvis. The gluteal muscles should be the largest, densest and strongest muscles of the body, but if the hamstrings are chronically activated due to poor standing habits, the gluteal muscles are unable to activate and work properly. This inhibition deactivates the largest muscle group of the body, pushing posture onto the hip flexors and lumbar paraspinal muscles. This will cause chronic tightness of the iliopsoas, hamstrings and lumbar paraspinal complex, low back and sacroiliac pain as well as possible sciatica. This also plays a role in the long term inhibition of the gluteal muscles, which should be large and well defined. This large muscle mass, further aids in burning of calories and long term weight loss.
Proper Standing Posture
(Image retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/ Sept 2014)
This image, from OSHA, demonstrates proper standing posture. The muscles of the mid back (between the shoulder blades) should be tight, keeping the shoulders themselves down and back, but not just simply hanging downward, pulling on the shoulder joints. Proper posture does require muscles activity, which is why standing still for long periods of time can be exhausting. Keep moving, and try to avoid standing for more than 1 hour without moving, or sitting briefly.
Every work environment has various tasks to complete, and many of which can be properly organized to keep the body healthy, while still avoiding strain.
If you encounter any particular strain, pain, or difficulty while working, consider seeing a chiropractor. We specialize in non-surgical types of injuries. Not only can we alleviate the strain on the muscles, via adjustments to specific joints, but we are also highly skilled in musculoskeletal treatments that can restore stability to joints.
Here at Herrington Family Chiropractic, LLC we full understand limitations of our practice and if at any time your injury becomes more severe, or is already too severe to be treated within our realm of expertise, we are fully able to refer you out to higher level practitioners.