Good postures

Good postures

Severe back pain, tingling sensation in the leg, herniated disc...a bad posture can cause much grief. Dr SS Praharaj tells you how to get the posture right.

For generations now, our elders have been preaching to us about right postures. Time and again, we are told to sit straight and avoid slouching. But we seldom pay heed to their words. It is only after we personally experience certain discomfort, do we realise and understand the importance of maintaining a good posture.

Now with doctors and physiotherapists also highlighting the benefits of good postures, which help in forming a base for physical activity, people have begun to wake up to the significance of a right posture. 

Maintaining a good posture is as important as eating the right kind of food, taking good rest and exercising well. It helps you lead an energetic, healthier and well-balanced life.

So, what are the ways to help build a good posture? The perfect posture is when your body is aligned against gravity while standing, sitting or sleeping, where there is minimum strain on your supporting muscles. It’s all about being conscious of yourself and your body. The following tips will help maintain a healthy and correct posture:

n Stand straight and tall with your shoulders pulled backward. Keep your head up, shoulders back, chest out, and eyes looking straight ahead. Avoid pushing your head forward.

n While sitting, sit at the end of your seat, with your back flat or straight in alignment of the backrest of the chair, head positioned in alignment with the back. Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.

n Sit with your knees bent at a right angle. Keep your knees equal with or slightly higher than your hips. You may even use a foot rest or a low-level stool, if advised by your doctor. Avoid crossing your legs and keep your feet flat on the floor.

n While driving, follow the same seating position. The headrest of the seat should be adjusted in such a way that the middle of your head is positioned against it.

n Sleeping on your back will help keep your shoulders straight, and it is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach. If you prefer sleeping on your side, try slipping a small, flat pillow between your knees to help keep your spine aligned and straight.

Things to avoid

When we repeat poor postures, our body gets accustomed to it, resulting in misalignment, chronic pain and strain of the lower back, shoulders, hips and knees.

Bad postures can affect your sleeping patterns, mood and physical activity, and lead to back problems. All of these may result in spinal problems and injuries. Some of the things you should avoid doing are:

n Crossing your legs at all times, including while sleeping.

n Maintaining the same position for long time while sitting, standing or sleeping.

n Bending forward for lifting heavy things with your legs straight. Ensure to first part your legs a little, bend both your knees, and then lower yourself to a comfortable position to lift.

n Overdoing your exercises. Start with a ten-minute routine and follow it for a week. Gradually increase the time by five-ten minutes. Consult your doctor for the correct exercises and required time limit.

n Leaning forward to view the road, or stretching out your legs uncomfortably to break and accelerate, while driving. If your chin is very close to the steering wheel, you are in the wrong position. 

n Wearing high-heeled footwear, as high heels can cause injuries to the back, spine and ankles.

Remedy at hand

n Do not exert more pressure on a particular side. For instance, certain people have a habit of putting more pressure on one leg while standing.

n Remember to take short breaks at regular intervals - say a minute or two for every 40-60 minutes.

n Sit upright on a chair that fully supports your lower back.

n Exercise regularly at home to make your muscles strong and withstand load. While outside, inculcate the habit of practising neck and hand exercises as it does not require a lot of space.

n Try to use the laptop and smartphone at your eye level.

n Consult a doctor or physician in the initial stage of stress to help reduce pain in the neck, back and spine.

n When you’re lifting anything heavy, always bend at the knees, not the waist.

n Practising yoga helps reduce back ailments and also preserves good postures.

n Avoid slouching. Keep telling yourself to push your shoulders back.

n Use footwear that is flat at the base and comfortable to walk in.

And if all else fails, you should consider paying a visit to the doctor, especially when:

n Pain becomes constant, severe and lasts for more than a couple of weeks.

n Pain radiates into lower limb from the back.

n The lower back area is associated with weakness, any tingling or numbness in the leg or foot.

So, start paying attention to your posture and chase those pains away. 

(The author is additional director of neurosurgery at Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru) 

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