What We Hold in Our Spines

Illustration of a human back from Gray's Anatomy.
Image via Wikipedia

I guess it was meant to be. Sometimes blog topics just fall out of the air.

Realizing that I was slumped and resting on my upper lumbar spine instead of my ischial tuberosities (or butt bone to the lay person) I got up from my ergonomic chair (that can only do so much without engagement by the sitter therein) and fetched a small pillow from the couch to put behind my back.

There, that’s better. The pillow supports my low back maintaining the healthy “lordosis” or gentle inward curve, lets me use the chair back and arms for support, has me sitting with much better balance, less energy, and improved placement for my typing fingers without undue shoulder or neck strain.

And I sit down to a feedreader screenful and up pops this nice piece at Lifehack.org on pain and posture. Physical therapist heal thyself.

I see it in the clinic every working day: making posture a conscious and intentional way of carrying ourselves can make a world of difference. I’ve “healed” people of compliaints by adjusting their canes (as in the story at the link), by suggesting the hip-suffering gentleman remove the two-inch wallet from their hip pocket, and by giving them 8 to 10″posture spots” that facilitate re-education for a number of defects, making the sufferer pay attention to posture usually beyond their conscious awareness, a bad habit gone under the radar.

The latter are simply office-supply adhesive colored circles. I advise the teenager, office worker or posture-naive housewife to place the spots anywhere they might see them: bathroom mirror, kitchen sink, computer monitor, hallway mirror or rear-view mirror of their car.

“When you see the spot, imagine there’s a cable to a hook on the top of your head” (and I act it out, starting from a typical sullen-teenager slump) “and it’s pulling you as tall as you can sit, walk or stand. That will correct the forward shoulders and head, the upper back and lower back loss of normal, efficient curvature. Practice keeping that alignment consciously for 3 minutes, then 5, first while simply sitting or standing, then while doing housework, gym exercise, office tasks. When you can see a spot, do a check and find you’re already where you need to be, you’re good for life.”

I can’t tell you how many people have benefitted from that simple posture-mindfulness advice.

Read this article at Lifehack.org, then eliminate ergonomic stressors from your day (and night!)…and I tell you this even though it will mean fewer of you will ever need to see your local revenue-needy physical therapist.

Sorry about the title. I couldn’t resist playing off the name of the book, a merger of my working self and my Writing Muse (who is sitting up straight!)

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I admit, I straightened up as I read this! I usually find that after sitting at a microscope or working in a fume hood for a few hours, I am totally slumped over and aching – I constantly need to remind myself to sit up properly!

  2. I have a friend who often attempted to correct my posture by saying

    “Sit up, you look like a mollusk”

  3. Wow, I needed that. Right now, this minute. I do yoga frequently and am flexible and healthy, and yet, I have intermittent pain in my lower back , left side. That article shed some light. Thanks.