Business Today

Posture for a healthy back

That slouch is not just painful. You could be inviting early spinal degeneration.

     Print Edition: Jan 23, 2011

Last fortnight, 28-year-old Mansi, who works with a business process outsourcing firm, called on Dr Rajesh Verma, a Senior Consultant in Orthopaedics at the Artemis Health Institute in Gurgaon. She was suffering from acute pain in the lower back. When Verma examined her, he was hardly surprised at Mansi's condition.

Mansi, who has been working for five years now, had never given a thought to health, fitness and exercise. She worked long hours sitting in front of a computer. Also, she lived alone and was not too particular about her diet and when she ate. "Primarily, her problem had cropped up due to not sitting in the right position. She had a bad posture.

Lack of nutrition only added to her problems," says Verma. Bad posture may not seem a serious problem at first glance, but it can have severe and, of course, painful implications. Bad posture, while sitting or standing, puts abnormal stress on joints and ligaments and causes back pain, increased joint strain, slipped discs, and even early spinal degeneration, say doctors.

Sit right at work

1. Bend your knees at a right angle. Do not sit with your knees crossed

2. Keep your feet flat on the floor. You could also use a footrest

3.Avid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes

4. Get up from your chair every half hour. If that's not possible, take a deep breath

5. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk. Keep your shoulders relaxed
Dr Bipin Walia, Senior Consultant in Neurological Surgery and Head & Spinal Surgery at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi, says that the problem is certainly on the rise. Children are less into physical activity and sports, and this habit continues into adulthood. Long hours sitting hunched over books and then at work aggravate this problem.

"The people most affected are middle-aged. But increasing numbers of young people are now suffering from back pain," says Walia. The reason for the alarming increase in the number of such patients is bad ergonomics at the workplace, a sedentary lifestyle (doctors say 20-somethings are not particular about exercising) and lack of proper nutrition. This could be a shortage of Vitamins D or B12, an absence of protein and fibre along with lack of sunlight and prolonged exposure to low temperatures.

Walia is at pains to explain the importance of good posture for a healthy back. He defines it as one that keeps the body alignment in as natural a position as possible. Good posture reduces the load and stress on joints, ligaments and muscles.

If you want to sit correctly, your back should be straight. The thighs should be parallel to the ground, and the feet should be flat on the ground without stretching. An inclined footstool is always beneficial. And if you are working at a computer, the screen should be at eye level, with the shoulders squared and head held straight. It should be in line with the axis of the body so that you do not have to twist your back to see it.

-Saumya Bhattacharya

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