Consultant – Orthopaedic Surgeon
Speciality interests include:
Lower extremity: trauma, sports surgery, knee, patella dislocation, tendon problems, foot and ankle surgery, and the management of degenerative joint disease in younger patients.
Visiting on Sep 21-22, 2019Request an Appointment
Sit up straight; pull your shoulders back; stop slouching. How many times have we heard these cues in our lifetime? I can remember coming home from school as a youngster and hearing my mother tell me these things. Of course, this is after I put down my overly full backpack full of lunch, snacks, books etc… (Backpack safety- a topic that I will save for another day). I could only imagine what life would be like had she been a military drill sergeant!
Lately, in my practice, I’ve been seeing more and more cases of individuals presenting with aches and pains related to their general posture. Whether we stand on our feet, sit, or sleep all day (Ha! I wish.), we are all subject to conforming to our respective environments. Basically, our posture will end up changing from the “ideal-super posture” into a less than ideal one; one that can cause further injury. This is often referred to as the creep phenomenon- a sustained static load on the ligaments of our spine that can result in paraspinal muscle spasm and hyperexcitability (A.K.A back pain, stiffness and discomfort). I must give credit where credit is due- the human body is a resilient piece of machinery. We are able to find ways to move through pain, discomfort or limitations. It is often these compensations that can haunt us by causing us even more injury. (Again, another issue that I will save for another post).
Back to the train of thought at hand- fun facts. Everyone likes fun facts.
In 2013, the European college of sports and exercise physicians conference concluded that lumbar, lumbar-head and cervico-thoracic angles are significantly altered from an instructed/ideal sitting posture after 10 to 30 minutes of prolonged sitting. Furthermore, our ability to reposition to a “perfect posture” significantly decreases after only just 10 minutes! (Korakakis & Giakas, 2013).
What does this mean in plain English? Basically, our posture is severely affected by short durations of sitting. Not just the long periods of sitting, the short ones too. Further to this, they found that our ability to return to normal posture is greatly reduced after those prolonged periods of sitting! Kind of scary when you think about the creeping phenomenon that would be ongoing! Korakakis & Giakas (2013) conclusions did not touch on the effects of prolonged standing. However, I’d be willing to bet that standing all day would take some sort of toll on our posture as well.
I listened to a lecture in 2015 from Dr Evan Osar, an internationally recognized lecturer, author, and expert on assessment, corrective exercise, and integrative movement. He had some great insight into how to cue ourselves to reset into a “perfect posture”. Think back to those military style postural cues. What does it feel like? Take a second:
Doesn’t it feel like your eyes may pop out at any second? Like you are being compressed? That’s how I felt too. These compression cues might be ok if you’re a powerlifter and are about to go for the biggest deadlift or squat of your life. But let’s be real here for a second. Except for the 30 minutes of exercise activity you’re already doing every day (wink-wink, nudge-nudge-you should be aiming for this if you didn’t know) adding compacting cues to the stresses of daily living isn’t really ideal. If only we could approach postural correction in a relaxed manner! Luckily we can.
Do these cues actually work? A 2012 study conducted by Robertson, Ciriello & Garabet., showed that participants with work-related muscle, bone and joint disorders who were in a customer service job, 8 hours per day, and were trained minimally over 15 days in sit-stand and office ergonomics had the ability to mitigate their pain symptoms, change their behaviours and enhance job performance. So the long and short of it is yes-these cues will definitely help you day to day. Also, check out this link: http://q.equinox.com/articles/2014/09/sitting for more information on active sitting.
I like to think of the human body as a high-end sports car. It’s something you take care of, show off to the world, and hey, let’s be honest, you should be proud of it.
Korakakis, V., & Giakas, G. (2013). Spinal Repositioning Deficit. The Effect Of Prolonged Flexed Posture. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(10). doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092558.43
Osar, E. (n.d.). Thoracic Stabilization Strategy. Lecture. Retrieved May 19, 2015, from https://www.otpbooks.com/product/thoracic-stabilization-strategy-evan-osar/.
Robertson, M., Ciriello, V., & Garabet, A. (2012). Office Ergonomics Training And A Sit-Stand Workstation: Effects On Musculoskeletal And Visual Symptoms And Performance Of Office Workers. Applied Ergonomics, 44: 73-85. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2012.05.001.