Posture Yourself for 2021

by Paula Allia PT, DHSc, MTC, OCS

The year of 2020 has been unprecedented to say the least. Now, here we are approaching 2021 and what do you have to show for it in regard to the body and overall health? Hopefully you have not been afflicted with COVID-19 and if so you have recovered.

Since the start of the pandemic many have been tossed into the unknown world as it is known. This led many into of virtual meetings for work and family and friend chats in a similar manner. It started off for most as a new learning curve and it is wonderful that technology has progressed to this level because otherwise it could be a lot worse. Not only for work, these meetings are now used to have dinner together, spend time with friends, and to see the grandchildren. In fact, a whole new world of virtual dinners together over the holidays happened all over the country.

It actually can be special when someone cannot join their family and friends physically, to be able to see them, talk, laugh, and eat together.

Well, what most have not thought about with this new trend is the position one assumes to participate in these meetings. There has been an increase in desk and office chair sales as many updated their homes. Having the right chair for prolonged meetings does not always work because most do not sit all the way back in their chairs most of the time. Prolonged sitting in a poor position can cause neck and back dysfunction which can then lead to complications such as headaches, carpal tunnel, disk irritation, etc.

It is indeed time to take care of your body’s position during these trying times. People worry about their upper body attire so why not also reflect yourself in good sitting mechanics. Addressing your space is very important. Next is your positioning on the electronic device. Finally, it is undoing all of the stressful positions at the end of the day that will allow you to do it all over again the next day.

The virtual space needs attention. First, the electronic devices should be directly in front of you, eliminating the need to turn your head to the side for a prolonged conversation. Thus, a desk or counter space should be cleaned off in order for this to occur.

Most desks, if not adjustable, are around 30” in height BUT the key is that the device should be at eye level when sitting up straight. The height of the counter or desk, if working without a high low desk may require a book or computer stand to raise the device. If not, forward head posture my lead to tightened neck muscles causing neck dysfunction, headaches and pain.

Over time these changes can cause pressure on the anatomical structures in the neck leading to structural changes. Some muscles get tight while others become overstretched and weakened. So, sit tall and supported and raise the electronic device to the level of your eyes without a need to hold the device.

Over the last 6-9 months, many may be experiencing some of the symptoms of neck dysfunction. Blood flow to the brain can become compromised so avoid rounded shoulders and stack your neck over your shoulders to ensure good efficiency of the blood supplying the brain.

Maximize the body’s position to keep it healthy. Prolonged poor execution can lead to even carpal tunnel syndrome with the use of a computer. The strains eventually have an effect on the nerves that go into the arm and numbness, tingling and even pain can ensue even at night when your body is trying to rest up for the next day.

Whether you are someone who participates virtually or even if you are just more sedentary than normal, it is time to make a change. By the evening hours, it is time to undo the stresses and strains that have afflicted the body. If you have more sitting to do, sit with the head and neck supported to rest the muscles. If not, you may lay down, put your arms out with palms up and let gravity bring you back.

You may also look at stretching the muscles that have been tight all day. These commonly are the pectorals, levator scapulae, the sternocleidomastoid, and even the small muscles in the base of the skull. There are ways to stretch out these muscles to lessen the strain. Then, while laying down. Push the backs of your arms and hands into the bad and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this for 8 seconds then relax. Repeat this 10 times and fully relax between the reps.

Take control of your posture and health as we all enter into the new year of 2021. Posture yourself for success!

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