Did you ever have a day where your chair just didn't seem to belong to you? No matter what way you sit you just can't get comfy? It's like someone swapped your chair when you weren't looking.
Whether it's your car seat, desk chair, saddle on your bike or your favourite arm chair, sometimes we just have to make adjustments.
I recently went for a bike fit, yes there is such a thing! When you spend as long as me in the saddle you want it to be right. Recently I have noticed that my left shoulder is giving me grief and my neck sometimes hurts, especially after long spins. Most of my clients say the same, complaining of neck and shoulder from hours at a desk. It's only in the afternoon that they notice their posture has changed, They are slumped over the desk. They get up and walk around but this deep boring pain just won't go away.
The simple fact of the matter is, we were not built to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, or in my case on a bike for that long. We cannot physically hold good posture for that long. Our bodies will fatigue as the day goes on. Our shoulders will slump forward causing roundness in the upper mid back. Our head will protrude forward causing stress to muscles at the back of our necks. Our chest becomes suffocated by the rounded shoulders causing shorter breaths. Our backs will slouch and we will compress our diaphragm further. We are now shallow breathing and therefore taking less oxygen into our systems. This can lead to feeling fatigued and often a gray parlour. Our hips will become tight from sitting all day and most noticeably our tummy goes all squishy and bloated outwards.
So all in all not a very attractive picture!
So what's the solution?. Well unfortunately most of us can't give up the desk job, (that includes school and college desk,) can't do without our car and let's be honest, sitting on the couch is a big part of modern family life.
Getting up regularly and having a stretch, a walk about are all great. A standing desk is ideal but offices and schools can be slow to adapt. So what's left? Well you can lie down but that's not very practical!
1. Make adjustments, ergonomically. That means to tweak your seating arrangements and ensure that your body is in the best position possible.
Did you know your hips ideally should be at a right angle when seated and your feet flat on the floor? If you're small like me, it may not be possible to lower your seat to achieve this but you can put a block or books under your feet to raise them up.
Your wrists when on a computer should be flush with the keyboard. Again this might mean adjusting your chair position or putting something under the keyboard to raise it.
Are you overreaching for your steering wheel or keyboard? Are your shoulders rounding and you feel a little stretched?
Move the chair in closer. I had to move my saddle closer to my handlebars as I was a little too stretched, causing fatigue in my upper middle back and my neck was sore.
In your car your back and head should be supported by the chair and headrest. Check it! Also have a look at your hip angle especially if you have a sports car, are your knees up around the steering wheel?
There are loads of interesting articles online, google ergonomics, seated posture etc.
2. Strengthen your back muscles.
As we sit all day, be it in the car, desk or bike are shoulders will slouch. That's gravity for you. We have become habitual slouchers and we have forgotten how to sit up straight let alone back bend. By strengthening the muscles all around your shoulder blades and spine you will be able to hold better posture for longer and hopefully avoid fatigue early in the day.
Focus on actions such as rowing, these can be done easily with a resistance band. Change your hand position and target different muscles.
In yoga and pilates we focus on spine extension, camel pose, cobra poses, "swimming" exercises which include the rotator cuff and the muscles either side of your spin.
3. Visit your local Physical Therapist for some hands on help.
The fact of the matter is, if you are so stiff and locked up in you upper mid back you will not be able to target the correct muscle groups. You need some treatment and help to get results. This may include some massage type treatment as well as a home program suited just for you. You want to ensure you are retraining the correct muscles and not over developing the wrong areas. Our upper mid back are constantly slouching from modern life, it's not going to be a magic solution, you will need to commit to some homework.
4. Put down the phone/ device.
I am so guilty of this myself I must confess. Have a look at someone on their phone whether they are standing or sitting. Hunched over shoulders, head hanging low, wrist upturned holding device which becomes heavier and heavier the longer you hold it. Diaphragm compressed and a nice big round back to top it all off. Have you heard of muscle memory or postural patterns? Well guess what.. do enough of this and soon it will be your new adopted shape. Put the phone down or limit your time on it.. easier said than done I know.
The same goes for kids on playstations / xboxes etc. Watch them next time, how are they sitting? Are they rounded? Slouching? Is their head forward? Where are their shoulders? Are they transfixed and not listening to you? Turn off the box and go outside. Sitting indoors all day is no good, we need Vitamin D and we need fresh air. Children need coordination patterns which is why ball games are so important. Do not neglect your child's structural development. It's just as important as their school/ brain development.
5. Cheat your way to backbending. It is possible. In short. get down on the floor!
If you angle the tv correctly you can enjoy your favorite show while re aligning your spine!
You will need:
**These are all just simple ways to improve your posture. If you have spine issues or unexplained back pain you should seek medical attention. Please consult with your Physician before trying any new exercise program. **
Need further help? Book in with me for a Spinal Assessment and Homecare program designed especially for your spine. No two backs are the same, you need to mind your own. Based in Churchtown South County Dublin I offer appointments Monday to Friday. Late night appointments on Wednesday night. Contact me to discuss your needs and we can arrange a suitable appointment time. Get your back on track!
Want to join a class to improve your posture and flexibility?
I teach Yoga for Perfect Posture every Tuesday night in Rathfarnham at 8:30pm. This beginners yoga class is suitable for all no matter how stiff and tired your body is. We focus on improving posture, strengthening your back and gaining some flexibility. The class is fun and lighthearted, everyone is welcome. Teenagers must be accompanied by an adult/ guardian. This class is pregnancy yoga friendly. Please be over twelve weeks pregnant to begin this class.
I also teach Pilates too. Suitable for beginners, mature persons and intermediates. Every Tuesday night in Rathfarnham, beginners and mature persons are at 6:30pm while intermediates are at 7:30pm. Pilates improves your core, your posture and body awareness. This class is great for bad backs as well as those who need some motivation to get moving.
About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety. A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive. Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races, Half Marathons and the Camino de Santiago.
Keen to spread the word on all things related to Wellness, Fitness, Coaching and Travel.