Analysis & Posture Correction
Your osteopath will take a detailed case history and examine your posture to create a personalised management plan. This will include hands-on therapy, exercise prescription and work/gym/sleep posture advice. Posture correction reduces pain predisposed by your posture and reduces the likelihood of future injury.
Occupational injuries account for many millions of working days lost each year in Britain. No matter whether your work is in the office or outside on the land you need to be able to cope with the individual demands made on your body by the style of work you do. Manual work inevitably carries the inherent risk of injury caused by heavy and often awkward lifting, overstretching, and periods of prolonged bending causing back and disc injuries, sciatica, and muscle strains.
In the office where desk work is more common, there are the dangers of ‘computer hump’ and ‘mouse wrist’, whilst frequent telephone use affects the neck and shoulders causing headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome etc.
Those who drive for a living need to be aware of their driving position as it affects not only their back, neck and shoulders but also can affect hips, knees and feet. Ask an osteopath for advice on the correct driving position for you and any exercises which may help.
• Frequent short breaks away from the desk and computer will help avoid back, neck and eye strain.
• Make sure if you are driving that you make time to stop, get out and do some brisk exercise for a few minutes every so often on a long journey.
• When lifting at work judge whether you can do this safely or whether you need help. Never be afraid to ask for assistance.
The position you sleep in is just as important as the posture you adopt during the day. Try to keep your body, in particular your spine, as neutral as possible.
A mattress that is too hard or too soft will cause your spine to dip down or arch up. Ask someone to take a picture of your spine when you are lying on your side, and make sure that your spine is straight. It is better to buy a cheaper mattress that allows your spine to rest in neutral and replace it as needed, rather than an extremely expensive 'orthopaedic' one that might not suit your spine as it changes shape over the years.
Pillows are important too; they come in all shapes and sizes so its impossible to say if one, two, three or four are required! Again it's about making sure your spine is neutral and your neck is not curving up or dropping down. The pillow(s) should be exactly the distance between the edge of your shoulder and your ear when your head is straight. Look at a picture of yourself and see if your head is in line with your spine, or too far up or down.
Pillow placement is a simple way of significantly improving your sleep.
Sleeping on your back (supine)
Make sure your spine isn't dipping in to a mattress that is too soft. Place a pillow under your knees to support the arch in the lumbar spine (low back). Use a small pillow to support your head, not a huge mountain of pillows that will push your neck up and flex your spine.
Sleeping on your front (prone)
Place a pillow under your tummy to support the low back and prevent it from dipping down towards the bed. A soft mattress that causes a great deal of arching will strain the lumbar spine and predispose injury. Turn your head to alternate sides each evening to prevent favoring one side.
Sleeping on your side
If you have pain on one side of your body avoid lying on it. Sometimes patients find it more comfortable to lie on their non-dominant side as it is less sensitive. Arrange the pillows under your head as discussed to maintain a neutral spine. You might also like to place a pillow between your knees to align the pelvis, and prevent the thigh dropping down on to the lower knee.
Our bodies are not designed for sustained posture; movement encourages healthy blood flow that brings nutrients and oxygen to an area, and drains waste products of muscle metabolism away.
Did you know? The intervertebral discs in our spine have no direct blood supply and depend upon movement to pump nutrients into them.
One third of all work-related disability is attributed to low back pain in the United Kingdom.
Sitting at a desk for long periods may cause:
• Postural Fatigue - constant muscle tension and reduced blood flow leads to tired, weak muscles that ache.
• Fibrotic Adhesions - 'knots' appear in the muscle tissue, almost like scar tissue due to chronic shortening or misuse of the muscle.
• Overuse Injuries - muscle strain due to repetitive stress and insufficient time to recover. Overloading of the tissues causes inflammation and swelling that may reduce joint movement or irritate nerves.
Tip: A 'static posture' is not limited to office environments; any sustained position such as overhead work, holding something for long periods (tools or children!) increases the risk of injury. This is why you feel sore the day after painting the house or gardening, becoming aware is often the first step to posture correction.
Ergonomic Office Set Up
To reduce your risk of injury, make sure you set up your workspace efficiently and take regular breaks. Stretching at your desk or getting up to make a cup of tea or lap of the office improve blood supply and waste drainage. Note that some exercises may aggravate certain conditions so be sure to consult your osteopath to ensure they are suitable for a specific condition.
Sit all the way back in your chair and not in the middle of the seat. You may find it more comfortable to place a pillow in the small of your back to support your low back, or if the chair is adjustable make sure the lumbar support is aligned with your natural arch.
The seat height and tilt is important too; use a pillow or adjust your seat using the appropriate toggle so that your pelvis is higher than your knees, preventing lumbar flexion. Your feet should just be flat on the floor (remember your knees must be lower than your hips).
The back of the chair should be upright so that if someone stands to your side, your spine is in a straight line.
Finally adjust the armrest of the chair if you can so that it slides under the table. This means you can move your body closer to your desk and computer and won't have to lean forwards.
If your chair is very uncomfortable, or you are pregnant, you may find it helps to swap it for a Swiss ball every hour or so.
Your computer and keyboard should be directly in front of you so that you can comfortably reach and see the screen without straining your eyes. If you regularly take calls, ensure you aren't repeatedly twisting to one side or bending your neck to hold the phone. You may find a headset useful.
When using a keyboard your wrists should be flat, not bent up or down. Keyboard wrist supports can be found online and are a cheap way of preventing repetitive strain injuries! If you have particularly broad shoulders you might also try a split keyboard that allows you to separate your hands more.
Take care using a laptop! Laptops carry a higher risk of injury because the screen and keyboard are in the same place. This means your risk straining either your eyes and neck, or your wrists. One solution is to raise your laptop to eye level using books, and connect a keyboard that allows neutral wrist position.