Modern technology has made life easier in many ways. A few short decades ago, math teachers were known to repeatedly warn students of the value of knowing how to perform various mathematical functions manually. They cautioned their students to not be dependent on the bulky calculator because “you won’t always have a calculator with you”. Little did they know that we’d soon be carrying a device, in our pocket, that was calculator, phone, camera, navigator, radio, compass, notepad, gaming system and much more!
With the transition to portable technology, use of a computer has become a part of daily life for many, both at home, at work and on-the-go. With this increase of computer usage, has come a more sedentary lifestyle. Whether it’s a business person compiling data for a report, students doing research or another educational activity, or a mom looking up a new recipe, or an idea for how to keep the kids occupied on a rainy day, people are spending a great deal of time seated at a desk.
While adding ease to our lives, the advent of this new era has also added to the number of people with poor posture which can impact overall health. Correct posture is where the spine is properly aligned. The natural curvature of the spinal column provides optimal support for the body, minimizes stress on the bodies various systems as well as providing support and protection to the internal organs. Proper posture keeps the body straight, not leaning in any direction.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to maintain proper posture when seated, working on a computer. During prolonged sitting, people tend to lean, slouch, or adapt some other position and these can quickly become habits that affect posture even when the person is not working on the computer. Over time, this altered posture can lead to overuse, imbalance, and strain on the musculoskeletal system causing pain, reduced joint function, problems with appearance and even physical disability.
This is especially of concern in children and young people whose body is still developing. Poor posture in the growth years can actually “affect the shape of muscles, deform the skeleton, and cause abnormal development, which prohibit the maintenance of correct posture”
Researchers investigated how an exercise program geared toward improving posture could help reduce musculoskeletal pain. The study included 88 university students. At the start of the study, participants rated their pain in the neck, shoulders, middle back, lower back, and pelvis on a 10-point visual analog scale that is very common in medical settings.
They were then given an exercise plan in which they did 20-minute sessions, 3 times a week for 8 weeks. The first week was mainly stretching. The following 7 weeks “which can help improve concentration and be continued after the study.” Exercises included actions to improve flexibility as well as core strengthening exercises.
At the conclusion, subjects again rated their pain on the 10-point visual scale. Additionally, researchers collected data on the average time spent sitting per day, if the subject had bad posture habits (slouching, resting chin on hand, inclined sitting, crossing legs, and sitting on the edge of the chair) and if they exercised regularly.
They found females tended to have higher pain levels than males. Time wise, those who spend 4-6 hours a day sitting had the highest pain. For sitting habits, they found those who slouch had the highest pain. Participants who exercised regularly had lower pain levels than those who did not exercise regularly. When comparing the pain levels for before and after, overall pain levels were improved with specific improvements in the shoulder, middle back and lower back after the 8-week posture exercise program.
This was a small study that included only college students. However, the findings are in line with other studies regarding posture, exercise and pain levels. Studies of this type can be used as a basis for developing programs to combat posture related problems that accompany sedentary work. This may also help improve learning efficiency and heath in young students.
Chiropractors are experts in the musculoskeletal system and proper posture. If you or a loved one is a student or spends prolonged time seated, working on a computer, talk to your chiropractor about proper posture when doing those activities, as well as exercises to help combat the effects of prolonged sitting.
Learn more about posture, it’s effects on your health and how to improve your posture at https://www.tnchiro.com/articles/posture/. If you would like to get a posture check-up and you don’t currently have a chiropractor, you can find a TCA member doctor near you HERE.
Reference: “Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain” by DeokJu Kim,1 MiLim Cho,2 YunHee Park,3 and YeongAe Yang4,* Journal of Physical Therapy Science 2015 Jun; 27(6): 1791–1794.