Better Posture, Fewer Doctor’s Appointments

Too often these days people spend hours slouched and staring at the computer screen. In a world where thousands of folks spend all day sitting at a desk, shoulders hunched and back cramped, it’s no wonder so many of us end up in the chiropractor’s office with back problems.

Tucker Emerson, co-owner of Emerson Chiropractics in Juddville, said, “Poor posture is, by far, one of the biggest reasons people are in here.”

He continued, “There’s a whole list of diagnoses these days for people working at their desk. We like to give our clients workstation [tips]: this is where you should be seated in your chair; your feet should be at this level; the computer screen needs to be elevated, etc.”

Here are some good rules of thumb:

• Start by focusing on fixing your rounded shoulders: bring the chest forward and stop the slouching. Slouching curves your mid-back and low-back, adding all sorts of tension to your spinal joints and discs.

• Raise your computer off the desk. Either get a computer stand, use a book or block of wood. You want the screen high enough that you’re not slouching when typing or surfing the web.

• In your car, adjust your rearview mirror. Raise it to where it should be if you’re sitting with correct posture. Then, when you start to slouch, you won’t be able to see out of the mirror.

• Pretend someone’s pulling your head back on a string. It’s silly, but it works. This keeps your head aligned, instead of straining forward, putting extra pressure on the neck.

“I know, it’s hard to hold good posture for a long time. But if you do it enough – practice often – it starts to take less and less effort,” Emerson said. “It’s really more of a neurological hardwire problem. It’s your brain taking sensory information in at a certain level. You get hardwired into that…[and] breaking that cycle can be very hard.”

Keeping yourself aligned and limber requires daily maintenance, but it can be as easy as 15 minutes in the morning or evening. Time of day doesn’t matter. While stretching before vigorous exercise, like running, doesn’t necessarily benefit your performance, daily stretching goes a long way toward preventing injury.

Emerson said, “It takes about six weeks to permanently elongate a muscle fiber. If you put in the time – long term – you’ll see results. I’m only seeing you for 30 minutes; I can’t work a miracle. You’ve got to do this stuff at home too, and take responsibility for your own health.”

When it comes to things like back or neck cracking, leave it to the professionals. If you’re stretching and something releases, that’s ok. But don’t force it. Research says cracking your knuckles doesn’t give you arthritis, but you probably shouldn’t be doing it all the time.

“Folks are more than willing to shell out money for their car: oil changes, new tires, shocks or brakes,” Emerson said. “But paying $70 for a massage? They can’t afford that. They consider it a treat, instead of preventative medicine. I think…I hope that’s changing.”