You’re sitting at your desk, slipped halfway down your chair typing away on your keyboard. It’s only until you start to feel a niggling pain in your lower back that you decide to change your position and sit back upright.
We’re all guilty of this, and between your 9-5 desk job and spending every other hour with your head down scrolling through Instagram (remember to look up once in a while, ay?) it’s no wonder that more and more of us are complaining about aches, pains and bad backs— which is a serious worry for anyone in their 20s or 30s.
In a bid to help you reverse poor posture habits and delay early onset of looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame, we consult Australia’s leading posture expert and biomechanics authority, Dell-Maree Day who shares with us some little things you can do everyday to not only improve your posture but also the way you look and feel.
“Everyone knows poor posture looks pretty terrible, however, poor posture can also do a lot more damage to your overall health than you realise,” says Day. “It doesn’t matter how much you work out — if you have shocking posture your body is never going to look good, so correcting your posture must come first. Good posture also takes the stress and risk out of your exercise program.”
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There are so many, many negative consequences of bad posture — where do I start! Firstly, the poorer your posture, the more your body will struggle to work efficiently as hunching will restrict how well your body oxygenates and functions as a whole. This can lead to aches and pains, and can leave you more susceptible to injury when moving.
“These physical pains can then lead to mental stress and fatigue as your body struggles to cope under the pressure.”
When we improve our posture and position our bones correctly, our muscles are lifted onto the bones the way that they are supposed to. This triggers something called “muscle memory” ensuring that every muscle is the perfect length and reminds the muscle of its individual purpose. The muscles will resume working for you exactly as they are designed to do. This improves your posture and body shape.
Yes definitely. Shoulder and neck pain has become particularly chronic since we all started looking down at electronic phone screens. This constant pulling forward of the neck and shoulder muscles can result in an unsightly hunchback. Always look ahead as much as you can.
Most aches pains and injuries creep up on us. One day we feel okay and the next our back is aching. Or we make a tiny movement the ‘wrong’ way and bang — we’re in lots of pain. These problems occur because bones have moved away from a healthy position to a poor position, affecting our joints and our movement.
The next time your back aches, your knees hurt, or you struggle to climb a flight of stairs don’t dismiss it. In particular, take note of how frequently any twinges are occurring. If you’re in discomfort, you need to do postural retraining.
My favourite tip which is a simple and powerful thing you can do anytime is to pause and think to yourself, “I would like to be as tall and relaxed as possible right now”. As soon as you think this thought, your body starts to stack its spine up so its natural curves are being reinstated. This is the foundation of the foundation of good posture.
As your spine is the most important series of bones and joints in your body, this powerful thought ignites hundreds and hundreds of invisible muscles without you even trying. Do this regularly throughout your day and your body and mind will love you for it!
Firstly, if you’re working at your computer, especially if it’s a laptop, try to elevate it so your eyes rest on the top third of the screen. Make sure your jaw is not too close to your throat or not too far away. When in resting mode, your facial and neck muscles should always be relaxed and not clenched. If your mouth tends to pull downwards, also smile as much as you can to lift the area around the lower face! Looking straight ahead prevents your jowls from falling forward and strengthens your neck muscles.
Next, work on improving your sitting position. Move your spine away from the back of your chair and sit on the front half of the chair. Place your feet flat on the floor directly under your knees with a fist-size space between your feet and knees.
Look straight ahead and sit as tall and relaxed as possible. Don’t forget to relax your arms. As you do this you will notice your spine has completely stacked itself up so the natural curves of your spine are reinstated. This is a simple thing you can do frequently at your desk.
As your spine stacks itself up, transforming your posture, there will be a reduction in the compression and distortion of your joints. This is the key to eliminating aches and pains at your desk.
When standing still, look straight ahead with your feet 10cm apart. Stand as tall and relaxed as possible. You will instantly look and feel slimmer as your lower and upper back will lift and your shoulders will relax. This will reduce strain throughout your spine, especially your upper torso and neck.
I’m asked this question a lot. You need to understand that sleep is for rest and rebuilding. Our muscles are meant to relax when we sleep so experimenting with the type of bed that suits you and helps you to relax is always a good thing.
If you are really struggling to a get comfortable night’s sleep, then visit a therapist and ask them to advise you of any helpful tips to improve your comfort levels, such as using a pillow between your knees, or using a particular pillow to help your neck.
One comfortable lying position is to roll onto your side and draw your knees up a little towards your stomach. This helps to calm your body and regulate your blood pressure, not to mention taking the strain off your spine. Just don’t curl up too tightly or else you’ll end up in the foetal position!