How Are We Built?
We are structures just like any other structure. Some of us are built better than others and can take on more strain than others. Others may suffer under the slightest bit of strain. I like to use analogies with my patients so let’s think about the 3 Little Pigs and the various houses they built to protect themselves from the Big Bad Wolf. We all know that the House of Sticks didn’t have a chance against the Wolf’s huffing and puffing but the House of Bricks fared much better.
So, imagine spending several hours a day at your poorly designed workstation in a poorly slumped posture as the House of Sticks. Now, imagine sitting in a well-aligned posture with a custom-fit ergonomic workstation as the House of Bricks. Who do you think is better equipped to last the 8-10-hour work day?
Narrative introductions aside and regardless of who you are or how you’re built, with the right information we can all make the necessary changes to resolve, improve or prevent posture-related pain. Structurally, faulty posture can be considered an “internal” deficit that is under a constant “external” force. That external force is gravity. Our structure must resist gravity our entire waking day. Depending on which posture we choose to maintain will determine the extent of gravity’s often detrimental effects. Assuming a slouched and forward head posture will triple the weight of your head on your neck under the force of gravity. Imagine all the stress and strain to the muscles, tendons and nerves as they work overtime to keep your head upright. If this strain persists over days, months or years, the cumulative strain continues to advance often affecting blood flow and nerve input into your upper extremities. You may begin to feel any of the following symptoms: numbness, tingling, weakness, coldness and/or heaviness of the extremity, achiness, throbbing, sharp nerve-like pain and the perception of swelling.
What Can Be Done?
Enough of the sad news, our bodies have the amazing ability of “plasticity” or the ability to make subtle and consistent changes of ourselves and our environment through good, effective posture along with safe and effective work station. Good posture should feel effortless. Try to develop an awareness of your body and how it’s positioned. Which positions feel effortless and which feel more strained. When you begin to feel muscle tension or fatigue, readjust your posture. The slightest changes can yield surprising results.
Consider the following:
- Take short breaks from your work station and consider alternating between a stand-up desk and a sit-down desk. Get up and walk around or walk up and down a flight of stairs to get your circulation moving to improve musculoskeletal health.
- Sit upright and tall, take a deep breath and subtly pull your shoulder blades upward and back allowing the nerves and muscles of your arms to receive good blood flow.
- While at your work station, actively move all the joints in our shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers to reduce repetitive strain.
- Analyze your work space. The position of your computer, chair, desk or telephone may be increasing your problems.
- Perform hourly posture corrections or set a timer on your phone to take a well-deserved posture break.
- Finally, consider a consult with a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT)
What Can A Hand Therapist Do For Me?
A Certified Hand Therapist has completed advanced training through continuing education, clinical experience and independent study and is highly proficient in the treatment of upper quadrant conditions many that are either caused by or affected by poor posture. There are a variety of exercises and/or activities that can be prescribed for you by a CHT to keep you moving, improve your posture and improve your health. Remember, the slightest changes can yield surprisingly results. Be that change.