In previous articles we have talked about the stress and strain that sitting can cause to our neck, back, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Sitting in any one position for too long can produce damage to the supporting tissue. The body was mechanically designed to distribute the weight while sitting, however those protective spinal curves change when we slouch.
Slouching while sitting increases the stress dramatically. Think of holding a seven pound bowling ball. How long can you hold it next to your chest? Maybe five minutes before the muscles start to burn. How long can you hold the bowling ball in front of you with your arms extended? It would probably be very uncomfortable after one minute.
Think of the seven pound bowling ball on top of your neck. Your neck muscles and joints are supporting that weight. In a neutral position the weight is evenly distributed and the muscles are barely working. However, every inch the head moves forward increases the amount of force and energy required to hold the head. Slouching a few inches quadruples the effective force needed to hold your head up and look forward. Would you want to hold a bowling ball four inches from your chest all day? Then why would you hold your head several inches forward all day?
The reason is habit. Posture is a habit and over time you learned the habit of slouching. The good news is you can learn a new habit, "sitting up straight." It takes time and practice, but it can be done with enough effort.
The first step is to learn how much you slouch. Put a sticky note on your computer screen. Every time you glance at the note check your posture. It will surprise you. Another great thing to do is set the alarm clock on your computer or phone to go off every 20 minutes. It will amaze you how often the alarm goes off and you are slouching. The first week the goal is just to realize how often you're slouching sitting at a desk, computer, kitchen table, car, couch, or bleacher.
We encourage people to set their phone alarm to vibrate every 10 minutes for an hour. Try it several times a day. Initially the buzz may break your concentration, but within a day people report just sitting up straight without interrupting their work. Most of us need some type of intermittent reminder throughout the day. Eventually people find themselves sitting up straight when the alarm goes off. The alarm can then be set for 20 minute intervals.
People with neck and headache pain feel immediate relief from this technique. If you could improve your posture by 50% then your muscles would be working half as hard each day. In addition to less muscle pain and fatigue, the spinal curves would be in their mechanically designed position. The spinal curves would be absorbing the head and neck weight, reducing the damage to joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Posture is a habit. We can all improve our habits with desire, consistency, and determination. It can be as simple as sitting up straight every time an alarm goes off. I'm sure your friends will make a bad joke about Pavlov's dog, but it will work to improve your posture.
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