Every time we go to sit, stand or even run, we choose a path through which our body speaks to the outside world. We can demonstrate pain, joy, emotional turmoil or elation simply through the shape of our figure. Posture has a powerful voice. Its voice, in fact, may be so powerful that it echoes far beyond the time we spend slouching over our phones, tablets or laptops.
As technology in our world grows and becomes an indispensable tool, we naturally become more sedentary and overall less connected to the inner voices of our body. Our brain begins to shift from its natural dialogue to the sounds, lights and vibrations of endless notifications reminding us to go to sleep, call our mothers and even sit up tall. While these apps can be a helpful reminder on things that can get often overlooked in our hurried modern lives, they also have the effect of shifting the way our brain receives information. Instead of relying on internal cues like twinges of pain to indicate that we need to shift our body out of a specific position, we tend to be driven by the quality of our newsfeed to continue to glance down at our device to finish the article or get that last bit of dirt on our ex, leading to neck and back pain. A recent study suggests that bending the neck in positions seen by users of smart phones is equivalent to placing 60 pounds of weight on the neck. Imagine your 8 year old daughter, sitting on your neck.
Poor posture was a problem long before the advent of technology as we know it today, but the biggest case for blame can definitely be made against how technological advances stifle our variety of movement. Much like the tires of a car need rotation, each joint of our body needs to be rotated, flexed, extended and taken for a spin on a regular basis. Adding variety to your movement patterns helps to remind your brain and body that each muscle has multiple functions and serves as a sort of ‘movement maintenance’.
The positions our bodies take throughout the day matter. If you spend most of your day sitting, for example, certain muscles are active while others are inhibited or inactive. Each movement like this creates a motor map by which your brain navigates how the movement takes place, which muscles are needing to be on and how often to fire them. If you spend 8 hours a day sitting at a desk with poor posture, all the signals the brain is receiving during that time period are rewriting how capable your body is of accessing certain muscles. For example, if your hamstrings are being shortened and thus inhibited for 8 hours a day while sitting at your desk, your brain begins to learn that in order to accomplish tasks, this muscle should stay short. When this happens day in and day out for, say a month, it creates a lasting change in how your hamstrings are used globally. Further, when one things turns off, another thing has to turn on at a higher intensity to compensate. So, from our example earlier, if the hamstring is inhibited from sitting, than the hip flexors and quadriceps are generally overexcited; thus a movement imbalance is born.
Once this imbalance takes hold, it slowly can begin to wreak havoc in all the joints above and below. If you pinched one side of a balloon, not only does the rubber on the other side now have to stretch to compensate, all the air has to compact into a smaller space. This is similar to what happens to the body when an imbalance develops. This alteration of joint spaces, tissue lengths and muscular activity leads to increased friction between joint surfaces, and ultimately a degeneration of joints which causes injury.
If this article hasn’t already scared you into sitting straight and putting the phone down, here are some tips to help you raise your movement IQ and prevent future injury:
1. Mindfully engage with your body
Set a timer every hour to spend a minute or so thinking about where your body is. Ask yourself these questions:
Are I leaning to the right or left?
Are my legs crossed?
Are my shoulders up by my ears?
Am I leaning forward?
Am I leaning backward?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, right your posture by imagining your pelvis as a bowl. If you needed a better sense of this, place your hands on your hips so that your forefingers are on the bones on the front of the pelvis. Feel if your pelvis is tilted forwards or backwards. Shift it so that the ‘bowl’ is upright and in a position where if it were full of water, none would spill. Here you should feel two points of contact underneath you, your sits bones and your weight should be evenly distributed between them. This position should feel easy to maintain physically. Your mind might fight to take you back to your position of ‘comfort’. Remember that this is the dark place.
2. Drink lots of water
This one probably seems a little weird, how can drinking water help you have better posture? Well, it can help you break up your day so that every time you come back from a bathroom break, you have an opportunity to reconnect to your body and find that comfy sitting posture that comes from sitting on your sits bones (see above). Also, water is really good for digestion, allergies and your skin, so drink up!
3. Begin to unravel yourself from your tech
Some tips to help you confuse your brain and break you from your nasty phone habit:
- Delete social media apps: I know this sounds crazy but think about how much time you spend (waste) checking out your ex boyfriends-new girlfriends-brothers social media feed. Neck pain. Maybe you are the kind that watches cat videos all day. Low back pain. Worse even, maybe you are cruising for the next hot topic that is going to have you up in arms. Jaw pain. Just delete it. Make yourself open the computer if you want to watch the show. That one extra step will probably improve your life dramatically.
- Not ready to hit delete just yet? Move the apps so they are not on your home screen. This will make your brain have to work just a little harder.
- More baby steps: Add a folder for social media. Make it one click harder to get to and you might find yourself not really wanting it as much.
I hope this gave you some insight for why it is important to maintain good posture and maintain healthy movement to stay injury free.
Reach out with questions or comments: rupal (at) bodywiseaustin (dot) com
Sending love and healthy movement -- R <3