I am preparing to present an in-service to a group of nurses this week on transfers and lifting techniques. All to help them protect their backs while they get patients out of bed, into wheel chairs or out of a chair onto a stretcher…you get the idea. Anyway, since I already have my therapist hat on, I thought I’d look at your posture too.
So, how many of you just sat up straight???
I thought so.
You might not be moving someone from a bed to a wheelchair, but you probably could benefit from better body mechanics. Have you ever heard someone say, “I hurt my back picking up a pencil.” (Or something of that nature). It‘s not the pencil that did it but most likely years of bad posture. Most back injuries are from repetitive use. You know, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. It wasn’t one straw; it was the first 2987 straws.
There are several areas I could give you pointers on, but too many for one post. So, I’ll just go over some basics for all of you at your computer.
Before we get started, just in case you don’t already know, your keyboard and computer screen should be straight in front of you. None of that sideways twisting action going on or I’ll crawl right through the computer and yell at you. I’m glad that is out of the way.
Sitting at your computer, your knees, hips and elbows should be at about a 90-degree angle. If they are not, you need to adjust your workstation. Check your hips first. Chances are good that they are OK, but if not, adjust your chair so that you have good low back support and you’re not leaning too far forward or back. Now, adjust the height of your chair and arm rests so that your elbows are close to 90 degrees and you can comfortably reach the keyboard. Take a look at those pretty feet. Are they flat on the floor? Your chair should be raised enough that your upper leg (from the knee to hip) is parrell with the floor. If your knees are too high, raise your chair (and re-adjust you keyboard height to keep your elbows at a good working angle). If your feet are not touching the floor, you need to put something under them to rest your feet on. A book or small box usually works Ok, or you can get a nice tilting foot rest at most office supply stores. To finish off, we need to check the height of your screen. Check your posture. Shoulders back and down then relax. Imagine a puppet string coming from the crown of your head lifting you up and slightly back. Nice and tall now, your ears should be right over your shoulders. Looking straight ahead, you should be focused on the center of your computer screen. If it is too low, set a book or two under it to get the appropriate height.
If you are using a laptop computer, here is some food for thought. They are great for work on the go and for convience. If you are working for extended periods of time, you should be at a regular computer station. The laptop will limit your ability to adjust your positioning and ultimately set you up for possible repetive injury like neck and shoulder pain and/or carpal tunnel.
Now make a mental note of what good posture should be and try to check your posture several times a day. Here are some quick exercises you can do to help improve your posture.
1. When stopped at a red light, use the time to strengthen your neck. Push your head straight back into the head rest and count to ten then relax and do it aging until the light turns green.
2. When you are standing, check your posture to make sure that your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankles are all lined up. To be sure, stand against a wall with feet, bum, shoulders and head touching the wall. Slide your hand behind you and place it between the wall and the small of your back. There should be some space but not too much. Now push your back into your hand and press it against the wall. This is a pelvic tilt exercise and will help strengthen your core muscles and ultimately sit and stand taller.
3. When you are bending over to make the bed, to pull laundry out of the dryer or to pick something up, try to maintain the natural curves in your back (Do not arch you entire back into one continuous curve) and stretch the muscles along the back of your legs (your hamstrings). You will feel a stretch but it should not be painful.
All of these will help you to improve your posture and strengthen your core muscles giving you a healthier back.
Now, sit up straight!