2011: Issue 1

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2011 > Pain-Free > Posture Matters

Posture Matters

Posture matters
Credit: Bumrungrad International hospital

Break your bad bone habits

Painful joint and bone ailments aren’t solely a matter of getting older.  Everyday bad habits and unhealthy lifestyle choices are behind a growing number of bone problems affecting adults of all ages.

It’s time to challenge the conventional wisdom that getting older is the main cause of bone and joint problems. The growing number of young and middle-aged adults suffering painful back and neck problems like spondylosis, scoliosis and herniated discs certainly helps dispel the myth. Unhealthy habits are among the driving forces for the increasing numbers of bone and joint problems affecting every age group.

These common bad habits are responsible for many bone and joint problems. Avoiding them can ensure a higher quality of life and a less painful aging process.

Bad Sitting Habits

Legs crossed:
This posture shifts the body’s weight onto one hip, distorting the natural curvature of the spine and pelvis and leading to back and neck pain.
Arms folded:
Folding your arms across your chest while sitting pushes the upper back, scapula and shoulders into a forward position. It can weaken muscles in the arms and shoulders and damage surrounding nerves, which can lead to numbness in the hands and arms. Sitting with arms folded is also believed to cause occipital headaches as a result of the tightening of the posterior muscles in the neck.
Slouching forward:
Slouching forward while sitting – especially for long periods of computer usage – places a great deal of stress on muscles, resulting in a build-up of lactic acid that can trigger pain in the shoulders and hips and may eventually affect bone alignment.  
Perched on seat edge:
This posture forces back muscles to support too much weight on the back and spine’s narrow base. Be sure to move your seat forward and sit with your back touching the chair’s backrest so that your body weight is also supported by the chair – instead of only by the spine.

Poor Standing Postures

Slouching forward or swaying back:
These two standing postures can cause back pain as well as bone problems in the lower part of the body. It is best to stand up straight with your stomach pulled in slightly.
Weight on one side:
This position overburdens the weight-bearing leg and can cause aches and cramping.
The healthier position is to stand with your feet hip-width apart with body weight spread evenly across both legs.

Dangerous Fashion

Wearing heels over 1.5 inches:
High heels may look great, but wearing heels that are too high can lead to back pain due to the misalignment of the spine.
Carrying heavy bags on one shoulder:
Women and purses may go hand-in-hand, but a heavy purse on one shoulder is a common source of shoulder pain. When muscles and bones bear too much weight, their alignment can be affected. Doctors recommend carrying a lighter bag with a limited weight capacity. And shift the bag frequently from one side to the other to better protect your arms and shoulders. 

Unhealthy Sleeping Postures

Sleeping or lying down on your stomach:
Reading while lying on your stomach or sleeping on your stomach should be avoided, as this can cause back and neck strain.  
Sleeping curled up on your side:
Curling up your arms and legs in a fetal-type position twists the spine during sleep and can cause significant muscle strain. The better position is to sleep on your back with a moderately soft pillow that’s not too thick.
Watching TV or reading in bed:
Many people enjoy watching TV or reading in bed. But the typical half seated/half prone position forces the neck forward and arches the back. This can cause degeneration of the neck bones, and the arching of the back can result in significant back pain. 

Unhealthy Drinks

Carbonated soft drinks:
Carbonated drinks like colas contain phosphoric acid, a chemical that accumulates in the body and drains healthy calcium from the bones – a potential cause of osteoporosis.
Alcoholic drinks:
Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to lower levels of important nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and magnesium.
Studies show that drinking more than two cups of coffee per day increases an individual’s risk of bone loss, as caffeine increases the amount of calcium lost through urination. 

Don’t forget your fingers

It’s easy to lose sight of the potential dangers that our fingers, wrists and hands are exposed to as a
result of overuse and bad habits. Taking the proper steps now can lower your risk of developing these serious bone conditions:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS):

This condition most often afflicts people whose wrists are subjected to repetitive motions like typing on a computer or writing cell phone text messages – especially for prolonged periods of time while sitting improperly. Over time, scar tissue builds up in the carpal tunnel area of the tendons in the wrist, leading to numbness in the wrist and a tingling sensation in the arms.

The flexor muscles in the palm and wrist gradually begin to atrophy, resulting in muscle
weakness and loss of grip strength.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI):
This condition results from repetitive, forceful exertion of the hands and fingers from activities such as lifting heavy objects, excessive hand washing, or wringing out wet clothing. While patients are usually able to bend their fingers and make a grip with their hands, it’s common that they suffer a decline in the movement of one particular finger.

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