How Sitting Up Straight Can Change Your Life
Dr. Jennifer Dorn
Take a second to check in with your body - does your neck or back hurt at all? If it does, you aren't alone, as over 16 million people in the United States suffer from chronic back pain and stiffness. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this number is bound to skyrocket as adults and children alike find themselves working from home or attending Zoom High School/University. And while Zoom or Google Hangouts may keep us safe from a virus, there's another looming epidemic on our hands: bad posture.
This might feel like an overstatement, however, new research is pointing at a future filled with musculoskeletal disease and skeletal malformations linked to poor posture. I'm not going to pretend I'm perfect - I find myself constantly hunched over while adjusting my patients or checking my social media! My husband is also a chiropractor, and he always reassures imperfect-posture patients that "posture is a lifelong battle". And it is an extremely important battle at that.
Your spine plays a large role in allowing you to be you! It houses our spinal cord, which contains all of the somatosensory and motor nerves that control our body. From brain to eye to stomach to leg, every part of our body is dependent on our nervous system's well-being. When the spine is out of alignment, this leads to all sorts of issues, even ones you would never really think is something CHiropractic care can help, like increased lung volui conditions, as the mechanoreceptors responsible for detecting the stretch of your back muscles and maintaining your posture are bombarded with signals from the misplaced vertebrate. The most common presentation of the bombardment is usually felt as headaches or muscle spasms.
Good posture allows for all of the reflex arcs located within the spinal cord to adequately and quickly communicate. In addition, it also allows for mechanoreceptors to properly send signals to the higher neural networks within the brain to relay signals to various areas of the body. For example, Morningstar et al. described how lack of proper movement in the cervical, or neck, facet joints lead to an inability to maintain proper posture, leading to vertigo and even similar symptoms experienced by whiplash patients.
With all that being said, here are some every-day posture-dependent activities that we have found our patients struggle with, and how you can take your first steps to a healthier, upright life!
Breastfeeding is such an intimate experience , and eye contact is necessary in order to best bond with your baby. That being said, craning your neck for hours on end can lead to strains that stretch from your neck all the way to your low back, adding additional stress to your already stressful life as a new momma. Dr. Jen recommends doing the underbite anterior neck stretch while breastfeeding, its a good habit to stretch your from neck muscles ( see our this neck stretching video.) You can also support your low back with a lumbar support pillow,bring your feet up on breastfeeding stool, and use alot of pillows, you want your body to be completely supported while nursing so you can relax your back and shoulders.
Sometimes, long feeding-sessions are unavoidable, but a simple remedy is to break out the foam roller and start stretching! We have tons of great prenatal and neck stretches on our website that we recommend to our new mommas. Spending just a few minutes a day stretching will help ease your body during an already-taxing season of life!
Phones, Tablets, and Other Handheld Electronics
Are you looking at this blog on your phone right now? Are you sitting upright, shoulders pulled back? Are you holding your phone at eye-level, or are you hunched over? Our phones shape our world - and even our spines! "Tech Neck" is the pain and tenderness associated with the bent over position people have adopted from the use of handheld devices. Your spine is designed to properly support your head when sitting up straight or standing. When you hunch over to check a text message, for example, the weight of your head is pulled down by gravity at an angle, forcing the muscles of your back to do more work. According to Health Matters, the average American spends around 6 hours on their phone a day, which can mean 6 hours of unnecessary tension on the muscles in your neck. The longer your cervical muscles are forced to contract to hold your head up, the more pressure the vertebrae place on the cartilaginous discs that cushion your spine, leading to increased chances for pinched nerves, herniated discs, or even ruptured discs!
However, you don't need to always have princess-perfect posture while spending time on your phone! Reclining in a chair with good lumbar support or placing a pillow behind your back and neck can help alleviate tension on your intervertebral discs. Also, holding your phone up at eye-level will help correct against bent-over posture and lead to a better overall Instagram session.
Working or Schooling From Home
Sitting in a desk chair for 8 hours a day was already uncomfortable before the pandemic! As many people still find themselves working from home or attending school from the comfort of their living rooms, many patients have told me about how their back pain has traveled with them from the office or university to home. One journal review found that 20 - 60% of office workers struggle with arm and neck musculoskeletal disorders, as typing on a keyboard can lead to elbow and wrist injuries. In addition, as the introduction of tablets and computers into school settings for students of all ages increases, so does the incidence of musculoskeletal issues.
Remedies for Relief
Developing strength in supporting muscles will lessen the burden your bones have to endure. When combined, both stretching and strengthening muscles can retrain the adverse muscle memory developed by poor posture over time. Stretches that will help alleviate pain from posture include mid-upper back stretches, and opening the chest and neck muscles that we so often neglect.
Cobra stretch is great for opening the chest. Lay on a flat surface face down and slowly straighten arms to create a gentle arch. From Nritya Yoga.
Your doorways provide a quick and easy way to stretch your shoulders! With arms at 90 degrees, place forearms and hands against doorway, stand in a tall lunge and gently lean chest and upper body forward. (If you are very flexible you may need to take additional small steps forward.) From Live Healthy.
You can also use an exercise band around a pole or your feet while seated. Hold with both hands and pull band towards chest while focusing on pinching shoulder blades together. From Alberta.
These stretches are even more effective for your spine when paired with regular chiropractic care. Chiropractors help retrain mechanoreceptors and posture muscles to facilitate new muscle memory that helps to correct curves and stress in the spine over time. They also assist in regaining mobility, opening up the joints, along with strengthening and lubricating facilitated segments that were encouraging poor posture in the first place.