Monday, May 28, 2012

So you have had the ergonomic evaluation. Now what? -Action Stance PART•2

The previous article talks using the lumbar support on your chair to sit in a "Relaxed Stance".  Relaxed Stance PART•1 This allows the the spine to be positioned neutrally while being supported, which helps rest your postural muscles from more active work positions.

In this article we explore the idea of using neutral posture for more active work postures; positions that facilitate productivity while supporting your spine in a healthy posture. While ergonomic hairs have awesome back rests and lumbar supports, you have to be realistic in how much time you actually spend properly utilizing the lumbar and back rest in a work day. Many sitters have a habit of creeping forward on the seat and disconnecting their back from the backrest which defeats any support it is designed to give. While creeping forward in your seat (usually to do more engaged work on the computer) the sitters posture starts to slouch forward at the lumbar spine (low back) and thoracic spine (mid back). With this forward slouch the shoulders usually will roll forward and down, typically this bad shoulder habit is almost a reflexive habit from poor lumbar slouching in addition to weak shoulder retractor muscles, and the need to type, write, or talk on the phone (all activities which involve forward posture).

If you want to use neutral posture while in a more engaging work position you can use what I call the "Action Stance". This technique positions you more forward on the seat and uses engagement of your postural muscles to promote a more productive work session.

In the action stance start by positioning your rear and thighs on the front 1/3 of your seat which can enable one leg to drop downward in more of a "Split Stance" leg posture.

Next create a slight arch in your low back which will position your pelvis neutrally, now back off that arch with slight abdominal engagement to counteract the low back arch and bring it to a neutral natural low back curve. (note if there is any pain or you suspect prior back injury to consult your chiropractor or other medical professional)

This engagement of your back muscles by creating a curve and subsequent engagement of your abdominal muscles to counteract and maintain neutral posture is called "engaging your core muscles". This is very popular term in fitness, especially in the past two years. However it's important not to just flex your muscles haphazardly, but engagement of core muscles while supporting a neutral spinal curve which (for the lumbar spine is a slight forward/lordotic curvature).

Next, bring awareness to your mid back and how it rests upon the stable support structure we have just created. The shoulders rest upon the mid back curve. Bringing your shoulders upwards, them backward, then relaxing them downward, is an easy protocol to bring your shoulders (back and down). This helps to relax the often over stretched and weekend rhomboid muscles.

Finally centering your head on top of your spine while avoiding too much forward translation can help promote relaxed neck muscles.

Now when you lean forward to do computer or desk work, lean from the hips and not the back. Also notice how you are feeling in this more upright posture, how clear you are thinking, and how your motivation for the next work task may have increased. This posture is a "Doers" posture for people who don't intend on waisting time and want to get quality work done, with out being distracted by mundane idiosyncrasies, or old time wasting habits. This is why I named this position the "Action Stance", it is the position favored when work needs quality succinct solutions.

Learning to have natural posture takes time and does require using a bit of finesse to find your comfortable position with in neutral posture. Now this positioning may feel unnatural or awkward at first, now comes the part where having a professional can help enhance your natural posture. There are many professionals that help with posture in general. I specialize in helping workplace professionals, and business professionals have better posture in these environments. Innovatio Health in the Silicon Valley Other professionals may also be beneficial such as teachers of Alexander Technique, or Gokhale Method.

Friday, April 27, 2012

So you did the ergonomic set up. Now what? PART•1

Think about it, aside from sleeping where else do you spend six to ten hours a day? Getting your office set up ergonomically is a great start to working in a physically healthy environment. This article explores what is the often overlooked -the importance of body posture while using your ergonomic set up. 

Having your work station ergonomically fit to to your body is a great start; unfortunately, many people end at this starting point. Your fancy new office makeover is only as healthy as how you use it; especially during those extra long work days when its hard to find a comfortable position to be productive.

Ironically, your ergonomic setup relies on healthy habits that many have not learned, or had ample practice with. These habits are all centered on a powerful word: Posture.

Please don't just default to the cop-out: "I'll just remember next time to sit up straight, and I've got that covered." Posture is less one specific position, and more a dynamic collection of good habits.

Having good postural habits is a bit like learning how to position your body for an optimal golf swing, or noticing when playing tennis how your swing is affected by your leg stance. Except posture habits in the office can cross over to sports, housework, business meetings, and every part of life. Learning good postural habits helps to remove vulnerable positions from your lifestyle; in the ways you walk, squat, stand, sit, and lounge (yes, lounging on the couch can actually be done with good posture).

Now, getting to the point, because your posture reading this article has already probably started to deteriorate; your chin may be jutting forward, and you may have started to begin the very habitual flexing forward of your low back. In this article I am covering central topic of back posture (spinal posture).

Spinal posture is at the center of our body, and it affects the position of all our joints. The spine is a moveable system of bones protecting the vital communication highway of the body: the spinal cord. Our spines develop with natural curves that help disperse the load of the body, as well as give aesthetic appeal to the body. The neck and low-back have a forward curve (lordotic curve), and the mid-back has a backward bending curve (kyphotic curve). There are natural variances in sizes of the these curves in humans.

Commonly today hi-tech workers, executives, marketers, and sales staff, have have had some ergonomic training or evaluations. Often these programs neglect to educate the employee why and how to sit in positions that respect these natural curves in our spine.

Many people begin with common habits such as slumping forward in the chair (thinking it feels more comfortable, and puts you closer to the computer). This slumping forward often creates an unnatural flexed position in the lumbar spine and can actually increase pressure on the vertebral discs. A better more natural position would be to move your rear to the back of your seat and use the lumbar support of your chair letting your low back rest on.

Now shrug your shoulders up, backward, and downward; as you breathe in a deep breath expanding your chest upward, and out. Let your arms relax in this general position of back and down. Next, bring your heck and head backwards slightly so they are centered over your spine. This may feel uncomfortable at first but with time and mastery you should be able to use this position to relax in, while using the chair as a supportive tool for your good posture. This position, using the lumbar support, I call the "Relaxed Stance". It is most useful for more relaxed work activities such as reading, talking, and doing things that don't involve lots of active computer work and arm and torso movements.

Any single position head for long enough can actually start to have negative affects on the body, even good postures. Using multiple variations of seated positions while keeping your spine in a neutral posture can help to add activity, and variation, while maintaining healthy posture.

In the next article we will explore using the front of your chair for more active engagement with your computer, paperwork, or other desk dominant activities. 

-Isaac Borowiec D.C.

-disclaimer this is not medical advice, and not intended to replace any consult with a chiropractor, medical doctor, or other medical professional.