Constant use of cellular phones and other electronic devices can lead to the development of poor posture habits, which can be detrimental to one’s health.
“Prolonged sitting in front of the computer or the television or even looking down at your phone to text, email or surf social media, can lead to poor posture,” says Jaime Nemeth Lynch, a physical therapist and Rehab Manager for Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy. “Despite your mom telling you to stand up straight when you were younger, most people aren’t aware of their posture on a daily basis. Slouching, while people might find it comfortable, actually encourages poor habits and weakens postural muscles that are needed for upright posture. When these muscles become weak, we have a tendency to slouch more which creates an evil cycle. Poor posture then becomes a habit and then habits are hard to break.”
Here’s some simple advice to improve your posture:
Be More Aware.
“Knowing and feeling how the body is positioned in space is a constant reminder to people to adjust their posture whether it be in sitting, standing or even laying down,” says Lynch. “Once you are aware and acknowledge that you have poor posture, you can start to make changes to improve it.” Andy Foster, a physical therapist and Team Coordinator for Outpatient Rehabilitation at the Sentara Therapy Center in the R.F. Wilkinson Family YMCA in Williamsburg, suggests to his patients that they use a mirror. “Most people aren’t aware they are in these positions, so I tell them to use a mirror for feedback,” Foster says. “You should frequently reassess on a daily basis. The more you are aware, the easier it is to break a habit.”
“The power of exercise is so important,” stresses Foster. “The stronger and more fit you are, the better your body will be at adapting to sitting up straight.” Make time each day for exercise, especially if you will be sitting for a lengthy period of time. “Simple postural strengthening exercises done on a daily basis can help to strengthen those muscles that get weak from poor posture,” says Lynch. “One example is a shoulder blade squeeze – sit up tall, squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to hold a pencil between them. Hold for five seconds and relax.”
Rework Your Work Space.
Lynch suggests getting an ergonomic assessment of your work zone. “The location of your computer screen, the height of your desk and chair, and the position of your keyboard can drastically change your posture,” Lynch says. “Avoid prolonged positioning. The body was not meant to sit for eight hours straight; it was meant to move. Set a timer for every hour to get up and stretch or take a break.”
Get A Screening.
Poor posture can put strain on your neck and back, which can hinder daily activities. Foster recommends getting a screening and seeking advice from a professional if necessary. “Everyone is different,” Foster says. “We can offer education and show them where they should be.”
The Sentara Therapy Center in the R.F. Wilkinson Family YMCA in Williamsburg offers free screenings Monday through Friday by appointment. For more information, call 757-984-9900.