How does our modern lifestyle affect posture?

Posture in medical terms, is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or laying down.

Derived from Latin positura or posit meaning ‘position’ or ‘placed’.

In today’s world, we have to sit for lengthy periods of time; in traffic, at school desks, at a computer or lap top, using iPads or Smart Phones, in front of a TV, or phone texting (I see people doing this all the time). We also have to consider other stresses to our bodies over time, for example; carrying bags or daily home tasks. Gradually, most of us develop a habit of hunching, slouching or leaning forwards. During these lengthy activities, our bodies have to counteract gravity while fatigue intensifies from our hip area right up to our neck muscles. Upper shoulder muscles then begin to assist, causing pain and imbalances to the whole neck and shoulder region. Try telling this to a teenager!

Take a look at this picture of colleagues discussing work at the lap top, it happens every day.  No problems here?

But have a look at the man’s head – it’s placed well forward of his shoulders.  Also, have a look at the level of his chin – its well below his shoulders.  Thousands, if not millions, of people would do this during the day, every day, without even thinking about it.  In this high-tech world, no wonder people get Neck Pain.

What happens?

Our heads are supported by our necks, which is a very difficult task considering how thin it is in comparison.  Our neck muscles move, stabilise, feel stress, and have the burden of gravity by holding up our head.  Basically, when posture is compromised or traumatised in any way, our necks can feel pain or tension.  Pain is usually felt in the back of the lower neck area and around the front near the clavicles, as well as up very high just under the cranium.

In addition, consider the shoulders coming forwards, usually the right hand controls the mouse, so shoulder flexion with some internal rotation is required.  This may mean tight pectoral and rotator cuff muscles.

What about the hips?  Usually people sit bent forwards, so trunk flexion is a consideration.  Review and palpation of the hip flexor and hip adductor group is part of my general assessment.

If…

Poor Posture + Gravity = Tightness and Pain, then the challenge is to modify your working or social environments combined with self-discipline to help support your posture.

On the bright side, there are things you can do and consider.  During the day, set a quiet alarm to alert you every hour, so you can roll the shoulders around and take stock of your own posture.  Introduce better habits like sitting ‘taller’, walking often, pushing your chin back – it’s easy & practical.

What makes things better?

  • Accurate information and assessment of the neck and shoulder areas in addition to spinal & hip observations
  • Massage Therapy targeting areas from the base of the skull, shoulder blades, down to all back and hip areas if necessary
  • Regular Awareness of your Posture is crucial, together with frequent relaxed neck & shoulder movements
  • Self-management procedures and follow-up treatments are vital to a successful outcome

Be Aware of your POSTURE – YOU are in charge.  Get help Now.

Massage Therapy Increases Movement, Restores Function and Reduces Pain.

Pregnancy back pain from an Osteopath’s view

Pregnancy is such a special experience. There is something to be said about carrying, growing and protecting your little bundle of joy. It is almost impossible to describe the feeling. The pregnancy experience is often described as all joy, love, glowing and happiness, however in reality it can actually turn out to be all nausea, discomfort and pain. Yes it would be wonderful if we all had a pregnancy full of bliss but unfortunately for a large percentage of women this just isn’t how it happens.

For a large portion of pregnant women, we experience varying degrees of back pain. This can range from a low grade ache and discomfort in bed, or on the couch, to discomfort whilst standing, after walking or being on our feet too long. In some instances it is not uncommon to experience severe debilitating pain in which you have to resort to using crouches or a wheel chair or being almost completely house bound.

Whatever the degree of pain you have suffered throughout your pregnancy it certainly puts a “downer” on the whole experience.

So why does it happen?

Firstly, we all know that a women’s body undergoes dramatic changes throughout a pregnancy whilst growing a baby. There are changes that you can see from the outside, changes you can feel on the inside and changes you have no idea that are happening. It is a combination of all these things that can lead to back pain.

Hormonal changes: Some hormonal changes you will feel – you may feel more emotional or have mood swings, your breasts will feel tender, you may feel more hungry, you may feel nauseous, you may need to go to the bathroom more regularly. What you won’t feel is the softening of the ligaments and changes in the soft tissues or muscles which are all attributable to hormones.

Physical changes: You may notice a growing belly, weight gain, larger breasts, swollen hands and feet, your luscious locks of hair. What you may not notice, as it happens so gradually, are the changes in your posture.

As the pregnancy progresses your once good posture starts to fade away to accommodate the growing baby. Your abdominal muscles stretch and are less efficient at contracting, this results in poor alignment and support of the lower back. Your pelvis tilts forward and your back arches. This posture alone means that your once stable lower back and pelvic joints do not function properly and rely more heavily on the surrounding muscles to provide the support and to maintain some sort of posture. For many women their bodies cope with this change and their muscles are able to adapt and provide sufficient support to the joints. However in a number of women their muscles are insufficient and lack the ability to provide the correct support. When this occurs there is significant strain on the joints and this can lead to pain.

Women with existing back or pelvic dysfunction are more likely to develop back pain during pregnancy. Many of the population are unaware they have a back or pelvic problem due to never having symptoms in this region, however the dramatic changes during pregnancy often highlight the problem.

It is common for women that have had a history of prior injury or dysfunction to the lower back or pelvic region will suffer from this type of pain. However injuries to other areas of the body may also contribute to back pain during pregnancy.

The following previous injuries may contribute to pregnancy related back pain;

  • Back strain/injury
  • Hip strain/injury
  • Ankle or knee injury
  • Surgeries to the hip, knee, ankle, back

Unfortunately many women who suffer from back pain during pregnancy become sedentary, thinking that stopping physical activity and resting will help their pain. Although this is the recommended action for some complaints, the vast majority of pregnancy related back pains require the opposite. It is essential to keep those muscles activated and get them working properly to help support the progressing postural changes throughout pregnancy.

The good news is that in most cases, pregnancy related back pain can be treated and managed so that you can enjoy your pregnancy. It is important however to seek the advice of a medical professional and one that is experienced in pregnancy related problems. This may be your obstetrician, osteopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor.

As an Osteopath and a mother, the best advice I can give is DO NOT WAIT to see how it goes. It is unlikely to go away as your body is changing constantly. The earlier you act and address the back pain the quicker you can manage it and prevent it getting worse, so that you can enjoy your pregnancy and remember it being a joyous time!

I have back pain when I wake – what can I do?

It is a common complaint of patients…” I keep waking with pain and stiffness in my back or neck”, “I can’t get comfortable in bed”, “I can’t sleep because my back pain or because my hips hurt”. Our bodies NEED good sleep to rest, recharge and repair. It is important that you do everything you can to make yourself comfortable and ensure the best sleep possible.

5 tips for less back pain and a better night’s sleep

  1. Good mattress – Have a think about how old or “good” your mattress is. Is your mattress sagging, can you feel your or your partner’s imprint, do you and your partner end up rolling to the middle of the mattress or is it 20 years old…If yes, I’d say it’s time to upgrade! You should review you mattress at the very latest every 5 years. And this is a good one – If you have a ‘cheapy’ then they may only last 2 years or less. A good mattress is a worth-while investment. You will be kicking yourself when you have your first good night’s sleep, wishing you invested sooner! Ask your practitioner for recommendations of mattress suppliers.
  2. If a new mattress is out of the question then an alternative is a padded mattress topper – A foam pad that has soft egg-crate contours goes on top of the mattress under the sheets and provides extra cushioning and air circulation.
  3. Get yourself a proper pillow! I can safely say over my years of practice I can count only 2 pillows that were brought in by patients for me to assess that actually gained my tick of approval! 99.5% of pillows people are sleeping on are either too old, too flat, too high, don’t provide any support to the neck and are just plain rubbish! If you feel the need to scrunch, fluff, fold in half, add a second pillow to, have you arm under the pillow (or on top of) or just punch your pillow because your so frustrated – You NEED a NEW pillow! Remember you get what you pay for.A bad pillow may in fact be the major contributor to your neck and back problems. Have your practitioner fit you for a suitable pillow for your body and then look forward to waking with a spring in your step!
  4. Use a knee and ankle pillow – This will help to support your pelvis, hips and lower back by ensuring good alignment whilst lying on your side. It doesn’t take up too much room in the bed. By eliminating additional strain through the hips, pelvis and lower back you will have a much more comfortable sleep.
  5. If you’re a phone, ipad, laptop user or TV watcher whilst in bed you need to STOP or at least limit this. The posture the body is in whilst doing these activities places a lot of strain on the joints and muscles of the body. Followed by then being sedentary in bed, these technologies are common contributors to neck pain, back pain, wrist pain and headaches just to name a few!