Learn how to sit properly
As someone who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk, and who has a family history of arthritis and back problems, I am always concerned about taking care of my spine.
I recently discovered a great series of YouTube videos by Esther Gokhale (pronounced go-CLAY), known as “the posture guru of Silicon Valley.”
As she explains in this introductory video:
In modern society, we have forgotten how to use our bodies, and we suffer a lot of aches and pains and dysfunction because of that.
But the good news is that we can heal most of the neck pain and the plantar fasciitis and the repetitive strain injuries and the back pain that we suffer, and we can do it simply by restoring our primal posture and truly natural ways of bending, walking, lifting, sitting.
The problem, she says, starts almost at birth as we are victims of poorly designed furniture and cultural influences that either encourage us to slump with our backs bent and our heads pushed forward, or to over-correct our posture and sit up too straight with too much tension.
Do you have a job that requires you to sit at a computer for hours every day?
Do you find yourself hunched over your phone or tablet or laptop for more than 15 minutes at a time?
Related story: Texting for long periods ‘could lower life expectancy’
Do your children slouch in front of their TVs or game consoles?
You might want to give some thought to proper posture!
Sitting properly saves money, too
Not only do I want to be avoid the debilitating pain and limited motility from which many of my elderly family members suffer, but I don’t want to start down that road of spending a huge amount of money and time on diagnostic tests and treatments.
Back and neck injuries account for a rapidly increasing chunk of our overall health care spending, with one estimate putting the total at about $86 billion per year.
Doctors have been costing the health-care system tens of billions of dollars a year and, in many cases, doing more harm than good because they’re not following recommended guidelines for treating back pain.
Instead of prescribing physical therapy and non-narcotic drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, they’ve been ordering expensive scans, giving patients narcotics and referring them to specialists, presumably for surgery or other medical procedures.
They’ve been doing that despite earlier research that shows non-narcotic drugs and physical therapy alleviate most back pain within three months, expensive tests and treatment do little in most cases and 43 percent of those with chronic back pain who are on narcotics also have substance-abuse problems.
Recently, Google hired Esther Gokhale to teach her Method classes to its employees, because back and neck pain were found to be “the single largest reason for medical treatment.” I imagine Google’s employees spend a lot of time sitting and looking at computer screens.
Many big companies that self insure use wellness programs and other health education classes to keep employees healthy and lower health care costs.
The Gokhale Method website offers the following statistics:
- 90% of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives.
- This year, 50% of working Americans will experience back pain.
- Back pain is now the leading cause of disability in people under 45 years old.
- By age 15, more than 60% of all adolescents have experienced back and/or neck pain.
As individuals, we can help lower our health care costs, too, by paying attention to the small, everyday habits that influence our health. Like our posture.
I suffer from neck pain (I play the violin as well as spend a great deal of time on the computer), so I especially like Ms. Gokhale’s video for a simple neck stretching and strengthening exercise.