The little things we do all day without noticing can have a lot to do with why we get injured. Our postural habits or repetitive activities can be creating imbalances in our musclular system that render us vulnerable to injury when the demands on our bodies are increased, such as starting a new exercise programme or going through an intense work period. This list is to provide you with insight and advice to avoid these potentially harmful postures and habits.
Meet Eileen Alot
Eileen has a few postural habits that are causing stiffness and pain in her neck and back.
These postures are often seen in floppy (hypermobile) individuals who have poor core muscle control about the trunk, hips and pelvis. They tend to lean on furniture to prop themselves up when they sit, or stand on one leg swapping from side to side.
1. Standing for prolonged periods with the weight on one leg
Can create shortening of the inner thigh muscles (adductors) and the side trunk muscles (quadratus lumborum) on the weightbearing leg. This habitual posture can create stiffness in the hips and lower back.
TIP: Stand evenly on both legs with the feet about hip width apart. Bring the weight back into the heels and along the outside of the foot.
2. Leaning on the elbow whilst reading or using the computer
Can shorten muscles in the side of the neck and jam up the upper ribs on the weightbearing side, as well as overworking the right side trunk muscles to support the weight of the body as it is imbalanced to the left.
TIP: If you have caught yourself doing this you can train yourself out of it very quickly by taping a velcro dot, prickly side to the skin, on the elbow at the point of contact.
3. Leaning forwards at your computer or desk for prolonged periods
Can result in shortening of the hip flexor muscles and overuse of the long muscles of the back to support the weight of the body, and may contrubute to hip and lower back stiffness. This posture may occur when you are stressed or concentrating, or if you are having difficulty seeing your monitor.
TIP: Sit with your bottom as far back in the chair as possible and tilt the pelvis forwards slightly creating a small inward curve in your lower back. Adjust the height of the back support so that the lumbar support fits the inwards curve of your lower back. Your back should remain in contact with the back of the chair. If you are having difficulty seeing your monitor you may need to bring the screen closer to you, enlarge the font size, or get your eyes checked.
4. Crossing legs and cradling the phone
Sitting with the thighs crossed creates an uneven weight distribution around the pelvis and lower back as well as increased tension in the muscles of the inner thigh which can affect the loading of the knee and foot. Cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder strains muscles and joints in both these areas.
TIP: A better alternative is to cross the ankles so that the weight remains evenly distrusted through the pelvis. Use the speaker on your phone or a headset if you need to use both hands.
You can train yourself out of crossing your legs very quickly with my “prickly Velcro dot trick”. Purchase a small pack of adhesive Velcro dots from your stationer and use the hook side (the prickly side). Work out which leg you usually cross on top. It will feel familiar and the other way will feel strange. Identify on the underneath leg where the maximum contact pressure is on the skin and mark it. Peel the Velcro dot from the adhesive and stick its adhesive side to the adhesive side of a piece of hypoallergenic tape like micropore or fixomul. Stick the dot prickly side down on the spot marked and then cross your legs to check you can feel a mild prickling sensation in this area. If not move the dot until you get the sensation when you cross your legs. 1 – 2 days will often have you completely trained out of crossing your legs just by increasing your awareness of your sitting habits.