POSTURE TELLS THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE
by Kelly Anderson, PT, DPT
If you’ve been my patient for any period of time you have probably heard me say one of three things:
I’d like to spend a little time on the last item in my list of three favorite things to talk about, posture / body mechanics, because it is something that carries into everyone’s lives and far surpasses therapy. Exercises can either help you, when using proper form, or further injure you, if performed with poor form. Also, body mechanics can make the rest of your activities of daily living or work place duties easier if you try to make them habit.
If you are anything like me, you are a very visual person. So for each topic covered in this article (Training Abdominal Muscles, Work Place Mechanics, Mechanics for Caregivers, and Sleeping Posture), I have provided websites that have lots of pictures or videos that will help if you want to skim through the reading!
TRAINING ABDOMINAL MUSCLES
In therapy you will often hear us mention to ‘tighten your stomach’ when performing challenging exercises. This is because there is a muscle called the transverse abdominis that acts like a belt for the spine, like the weightlifting belts you see people wear in gyms. This helps support your back when reaching for objects, lifting heavy objects, or performing any other strenuous activities that may injure your back. You can feel this muscle tighten when lightly pinching the lower sides of your stomach, just make sure you don’t hold your breath when tightening!
Visual Aids: 03 Activating & Training Transverses Abdomens Muscle (by daney20)s
WORK PLACE MECHANICS
I know it’s hard to keep good form when you get busy at work, whether you’re at a desk or heavy in the manual labor fields. However, the more you can try get into habits, the less you’ll have to think about it in the long run when it counts. If you are at a desk, make sure your feet can reach the ground, the computer monitor is close to eye level, most frequently used items are close by, and you take frequent standing/walking breaks (every hour if possible). If you have to do a lot of lifting, pushing, and pulling, make sure you use your legs to help, keep your stomach tight and your back relatively straight. Also sit down and back to squat, make sure your knees don’t go past your toes.
Visual Aid: The following website has pictures of both lifting mechanics and recommendation for an desk set up to best reduce your risk of injuries:
MECHANICS FOR CAREGIVERS
There are a lot of people caring for loved ones, whether it is because they’ve had a hip or knee replacement, they are a parent with weakness making it difficult to move around, or parents who have dementia and difficulty understanding instruction. It is important to take care of yourself first so that you can provide best care for your loved ones. One of the easiest things to remember is for standing up from low surfaces-scoot to the edge of your seat and move your body forward so that your “nose is over toes.” Push through your legs in order to stand more easily (except for hip replacements, then follow your precautions).
Visual Aid: Many times it is difficult to remember what recommendations we have in therapy or at a hospital to help with transfers and body mechanics. The following website has lots of helpful information. Just scan through the pictures to see what you need.
What other posture do you assume for 5+ hours at a time? Yes, it is very difficult to change the way you’ve slept for years, but if you are having pain or headaches after waking it may be helpful to try some of the following recommendations. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended at all because your neck is turned all night, sorry! Make sure your pillow is not too flat or too fluffed so that your head remains in line with your body. If you sleep on your side it may be good to sleep with a small pillow between your knees or under your waist so you don’t slump into the bed. It protects your joints, relieving unnatural pressures. A small pillow under your knees relieve pressure from your back if you sleep on your back.
Visual Aid: The following website has several pictures to easily see how these recommendations help you through the night.