Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sit up straight, and pay attention!

I've seen my fair share of patients with terrible spinal problems over the years, and yet relatively few of them were the direct result of traumas such as MVAs or sporting injuries. Most of them developed insidiously and were well advanced long before the patient actually became aware of them.
But first a few general principals about the spine:
Health professionals talk about the spine having three sections:

The Cervical Spine which is the neck part and quite flexible in most directions
The Dorsal, of Thoracic, Spine which is the mid section and is the part to which the ribs are connected making it the least flexible part of the spine.
The Lumbar Spine, that is also fairly flexible and links the Dorsal spine to the pelvis.

When viewed from the back, the spine should be a "straight up and down" structure: any deviation to one side or t'other, and we talk of a Scoliosis.
When viewed from the side, the spine presents three natural curves: the cervical spine has a slight curve backwards, the Dorsal spine has a slight curve forward and the lumbar spine has a slight curve backward.
The aim in life is to maintain these three natural curves with their flexibility: unfortunately, most of us don't until it is often too late, because if you do lose flexibility and distort those curves, not only do you lose function, you will invariably suffer pain and discomfort as well.
So, three simple tips to remember to help maintain good POSTURE:

Stick your chest out
Tuck your chin in
Tighten your core abdominal muscles.

When you do this for the first time, like me you will probably feel like the proverbial "Dill": but practice a few times in front of a mirror until you feel comfortable: don't over-exaggerate what you do, it's really only a subtle change just to get those curves back into their natural shape. The next thing to do is to keep remembering to do it on a daily basis, but like most habits, once ingrained, it's difficult to kick.
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.


Dr Duncan Jefferson said...

For those of you who get an ache in their back from too much sitting, hunched in front of the computer: roll a hand towel into a narrow "sausage" and lie on it with the "sausage" running along your dorsal spine. Just stay there for about 5 to 10 minutes or as long as the children/pets allow you to. Some might like a small pillow under their heads.
Happy resting!

Tai Tai said...

I agree, there are so many spinal problems out there, but as a physio I'm against the "stick the chest out" instruction. So much of poor posture comes from the anterior tilt of the pelvis and as soon as people squeeze their bottoms (posteriorly tilt the pelvis), the rest of the spine starts to follows. Then to perfect that "tuck your chin" part, we always recommend imagining there's a string at the top of your skull (at the back) which you need to pull up (while tucking the bottom under). Hope that adds to the discussion!

Dr Duncan Jefferson said...

Tai Tai, I absolutely agree with all the points you raise: I just thought the guys would get a bit of a buzz from sticking their chests out :)

Anecdotal Anna said...

One of the main reasons I let my daughter take ballet classes was to hopefully instil good posture habits that will last a lifetime. You can often tell who is a dancer just by watching them walk down a street because of their perfect posture.

Some great tips thank you Dr.

Eccentricess said...

Since reading this last week, I have been remembering to stand up, chin in, tummy tight and am feeling less neck pain.
My Chiro will love you!