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Sitting Up Straight

Decreased productivity due to aches, pains and injuries from being desk-bound and repetitive strain injuries can be very detrimental to the company and the injured worker.

And that's why productivity is not just something that the "problem of HR and management" - in fact, most patients dont want to be injured or have an injury that decreases their productivity and effectiveness at work because:

  1. not only it affects their work but more importantly
  2. injuries and pain affects their roles to their loved ones too (think of the exec who have difficulty carrying their kids due to back pain)

Even governments are stepping in to help resolve this risk and problem by introducing ergonomic and work health safety policies too. That being said, a simple and effective way to decrease injury risk and back pain is the simple "sitting up straight".

Today more and more people are:

  • desk-bound ie spending more time at their office desk for meetings and work
  • sedentary ie not moving around and exercising enough due to long hours at work, low energy, not making movement/exercise a priority

unfortunately, one-in-five Singaporeans have back and/or neck pains

About 20% of Singaporean adults suffer from back pains and neck pains, according to a survey of over 1000 adult Singaporeans by Back Society of Singapore - this is the same percentage as developed countries such as the United States and United Kingdom.

That's basically saying that every 5th person you see on the street, in the bus, at work - anywhere in Singapore, will have back pain or neck pain, and that number is staggering.

Putting that into numbers/economics: From article 2 mentioned below - The Institute in Medicine estimates the economic burden of WMSDs as measured by compensation costs, lost wages, and lost productivity, are between $45 and $54 billion annually3

Image: Ergonomics Plus

Some articles to read:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/health-strategies/musculoskeletal-disorders/index.html
  2. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/poor-ergonomics-is-costing-enterprises-billions-in-workers-comp-claims-every-year/
  3. National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (2001). Musculoskeletal disorders and the workplace: low back and upper extremities. Panel on Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Workplace. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Available from: http://www.nap.edu/read/10032/chapter/1.

Benefits of sitting up straight and good posture

Sitting up straight and good posture during sitting (and even standing) helps our body to distribute load and force equally and in a balanced manner across our:

  • joints
  • muscles
  • ligaments
  • body

in a natural matter. And in fact, good posture helps

  • increase our mental alertness
  • us breathe deeper and better
  • our organs to not be constricted to function well

So the thing is that most of us actually "know" what is good posture, and most of us do try to have good postures too. The trick and the challenge is "sustaining and prolonging" the good posture, because:

  1. good posture for a few moments a day...isn't enough - do it through the day and your health will improve
  2. bad posture for a few moments a day, is not detrimental BUT when bad posture is sustained through the day...that's when things become not good

how to prolong and increase the duration of your Good Posture

Prolonging and sustaining good sitting and posture has 2 arms to it:

  • good ergonomics (layout and setup)
  • actively reminding and activating muscles

Setting up our workplace and home in an ergonomically friendly manner (things are table height, close to us etc) helps to support WHEN we use them, and it's a fair start, but what is required that you actively engage your muscles (see next paragraph).

how to remind and increase Active muscle control

One of the core problems why we find it difficult to maintain good sitting and good posture for a prolonged time is because our core posture muscles are weak. Unfortunately, general exercises such as sit ups, push ups, walking or jogging etc are not enough to strengthen these posture-related muscles.

What makes it worse is that if we start to engage in rigorous activities and exercises without improving our core muscles and core posture muscles....the load and force will go straight to your back and neck, and damage them.

So here's two main exercises that you need to be doing:

Strengthen your deep abdominal muscles that supports your lower back

  1. Tighten and lift your pelvic floor up to your belly button
  2. Then pull your lower abdomen in - you should feel your back tighten and waist drawing/pulling in
  3. Repeat 4-5 times (this makes 1 set)
  4. Do at least 3-5 sets a day

Strengthen the muscles that support your neck

  1. Relax your arms
  2. Pull your shoulders down and in (avoid arching back when drawing your shoulders in and down)
  3. Repeat 4-5 times (this makes 1 set)
  4. Do at least 3-5 sets a day

Do the above two exercises consistently, and they will form and build a strong and flexible core that will be the foundation of all your posture and movement (normal or sports)