Jun 8, 2011

Improving Posture and Ergonomics

 Human positions refers to the different positions that the human body can take.

There are several synonyms that refer to the human position, often used interchangeably, but having specific flavors.
  • Position is a general term for a configuration of the human body
  • Posture means the intentionally or habitually assumed position
  • Pose implies artistic or aesthetic intention of the position
  • Attitude refers to postures assumed for purpose of imitation, intentional or not, as well as in some standard collocations in reference to some distinguished types of posture: "Freud never assumed a fencer's attitude, yet almost all took him for a swordsman."
  • Bearing refers to the manner, of the posture, as well as of gestures and other aspects of the conduct.
      Over time, poor posture may be caused by habits from everyday activities such as :
-sitting in office chairs,
-looking at the computer,
-standing for long periods of time,
-or even sleeping.

Poor posture can easily become second nature, causing or aggravating episodes of back pain and damaging spinal structures. Fortunately, the main factors affecting posture and ergonomics are completely within one’s ability to control and are not difficult to change.
The following guidelines suggest several ways to improve posture and ergonomics, especially for people who work sitting in an office chair for most of the day.

Why is good posture important?

  • When it comes to posture, your mother did know best. Her frequent reminders to stand up straight and stop slouching were good advice.
  • Your spine is strong and stable when you practice healthy posture. But when you stoop or slouch, your muscles and ligaments struggle to keep you balanced — which can lead to fatigue, back pain and other problems. 
Your spine's curves

A healthy back has 3 natural curves:
  • An inward or forward curve at the neck (Cervical curve)
  • An outward or backward curve at the upper back (Thoracic curve)
  • An inward curve at the lower back (Lumbar curve)
Good posture helps maintain these natural curves, while poor posture does the opposite — which can stress or pull muscles and cause pain.

 Good standing posture
When standing, keep these tips in mind:
  • Hold your chest high.
  • Keep your shoulders back and relaxed.
  • Pull in your abdomen and buttocks.
  • Keep your feet parallel.
  • Balance your weight evenly on both feet.

    Try not to tilt your head forward, backward or sideways, and make sure your knees are relaxed — not locked.

    Take the wall test!

    To test your standing posture, take the wall test. Stand with your head, shoulder blades and buttocks touching a wall, and your heels about two to four inches (five to 10 centimeters) away from the wall. Reach back and slide your hand behind the curve in your lower back, with your palm flat against the wall.
    Ideally, you'll feel about one hand's thickness of space between your back and the wall. If there's too much space, tighten your abdominal muscles to flatten the curve in your back. If there's too little space, arch your back so that your hand fits comfortably behind you. Walk away from the wall while maintaining this posture. Keep it up throughout your daily activities.

     What is good posture?
               Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or laying down. Good posture involves training the body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments.

    Good posture helps maintain these natural curves, while poor posture does the opposite — which can stress or pull muscles and cause pain.

    Proper posture:
    1. Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
    2. Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces.
    3. Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
    4. Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
    5. Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
    6. Prevents backache and muscular pain.
    7. Contributes to a good appearance.

    Proper posture requirements:
    1. Good muscle flexibility
    2. Normal motion in the joints
    3. Strong postural muscles
    4. A balance of muscles on both sides of the spine
    5. Awareness of your own posture, plus awareness of proper posture which leads to conscious correction.
    With much practice, the correct posture for standing, sitting, and lying down (as described below) will gradually replace your old posture.

    What is the correct way to stand?
    1. Hold your head up straight with your chin in. Do not tilt your head forward, backward or sideways.
    2. Make sure your earlobes are in line with the middle of your shoulders.
    3. Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling.
    4. Keep your shoulders back, your knees straight and your back straight.
    5. Tuck your stomach in. Do not tilt your pelvis forward.
    6. The arches in your feet should be supported.

    Simple Stretches to Loosen Your Back Muscles

    • Lower back cat stretch: This stretch is done on all fours, fingers facing forward. Start by dropping your head and raising your back as you push the shoulder blades upward. Repeat in the opposite direction by pushing your chest downward, arching your lower back.
    • Knees to chest: While lying on your back, pull both knees to the chest with your hands behind your knees. Keep your tailbone on the floor and hold this stretch for at least 15 seconds.
    • Shoulder blade squeeze: Have arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Now swing both arms horizontally towards your back, like you are trying to reconnect your fingers behind your back. Swing your arms back to the front. Do this motion slowly several times.
    • Shoulder blade lift: Have arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Now swing both arms vertically in opposite directions. Keep arms straight. Do this motion slowly several times.
    • The Core Twist: Hold arms out, bent at shoulder height. Feet planted on the ground, toes facing forward. Keeping your hips facing forward, twist your upper body towards the back (try to look behind you). Twist from side to side. Twist baby! Twist!

    Exercises to Strengthen Your Back Muscles

    Any type of exercise will benefit you by improving muscle endurance and increasing strength. Exercises that strengthen your core are the most helpful for improving and building the muscles that lead to good posture. Your core is your torso – shoulders to hips – the source of all your strength to your limbs. Here are three exercises that help improve posture:
    • Back extensions: Lying face down on the floor with hands behind head. Slowly lift your upper body a few inches off the ground and hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower to the ground. Repeat 10 – 12 times.
    • Superman: Lying face down on the floor, lift your right arm and left leg off the floor several inches. Hold for two seconds and then lower. Repeat with left arm and right leg. Do 10-12 repetitions.
    • Shoulder Squeeze: Lift shoulders toward ears and squeeze together, holding the position for five seconds. Relax and repeat 3-5 times


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