With more of us than ever before working from home, from kitchen worktops, sofas and laps, there’s never been a better time to consider the importance of good posture and its benefits to maintaining short and long-term back health.
Award-winning osteopath Anisha Joshi (who counts the likes of Professor Green and Rita Ora as clients) says, “Prevention is always better than cure: taking care of your body reduces the likelihood of suffering from debilitating pain and allows you to keep doing what you love for longer.” Osteopaths focus on musculoskeletal pain; using a combination of hands-on techniques like massage and exercise, they ease muscle and joint pains, stimulate better blood flow and enhance movement and flexibility, all of which contribute to the body’s physical wellbeing.
Anisha is passionate about back health, noting that “We live in a society where we’re all sat down.” She calls it “a seated culture,” with more and more clients (particularly young people) coming to her with back pain as a result. “Our bodies were created to run around – think about cavemen and women, hunting and gathering – and not to sit for so long.” With this in mind, it’s vital that when we are sitting, our positioning is correct. “Posture is important because it can predispose you to early onset of degenerative changes in the body or to injury.” Ultimately, a poor stance can have a knock-on effect, resulting in a bad back and other health problems.
“People underestimate the body; if you look at the spine, you’ll see it’s all connected, with thousands of muscles attached on to it. So, if you’ve been at your desk for hours, you might end up with a sore neck, which can cause tightness in the muscles and ricochet down to the lower back. It’s really about looking at the body as a whole,” says Anisha, acknowledging that the way in which muscles interlink can make it “A bit of a nightmare. Essentially though, the human body is a beautiful thing and it isn’t complicated; if you look after it, it will look after you.”
How to improve your work posture
Finding the right sitting position (be it at your desk or on a train) can be especially effective in ensuring excellent back health. Anisha’s tips for achieving this include “Not crossing your legs, which will make you sit up straighter,” improving your posture and preventing pain in the lower back caused by your pelvis rotating and tilting. You should also “always try to sit with your bottom right up against the back of the chair,” she says, which helps to keep the spine properly aligned and reduces stress on ligaments. Anisha also recommends glute bridge workouts to strengthen the glute muscles, which in turn can reinforce the lower back, as well as gentle neck stretches which she says are great for when you’re on a plane. She also advocates taking supplements such as Omega-3.
Products that can help
A well-chosen pillow and mattress are a great place to start when it comes to maintaining a healthy back, but there are also other products you can incorporate into your daily routine that can make a difference. With Anisha’s expert guidance, we’ve picked out the pieces you should be investing in, whether you’re working from home, back at the office or find yourself constantly on the move.
“Whether you’re on a plane or at your desk, keep moving; it’s important to get up and keep moving a little bit,” says Anisha. A height adjustable desk like this one is perfect for encouraging desk workers to stay active, switching between sitting and standing to relieve muscle tension and, over time, decreasing back troubles.
The Monitor Stand
Equally great for assisting with posture is a monitor stand, which will allow you to raise the screen up to be level with your vision. This way you won’t be bending your neck for prolonged periods – something that can negatively impact back health. Anisha also suggests keeping monitors close when working, explaining that the further away it is, the more you’re likely to slump into it trying to concentrate.
Although we’re all different and will benefit from varied techniques and products, as Anisha mentions, switching to a more ergonomic desk chair – one that suits the specific needs of your body – can have a positive effect on back wellbeing. Look for one that offers lumbar support, has an adjustable height, seat depth and tilt mechanism and flip-up arms for increased range and ease of movement. These functions promote good posture and consequently, better spinal health.
Perfectly portable, a seat cushion (sometimes called a seat wedge), will help to lift the bottom up explains Anisha, thanks to its subtle forward slope, which brings the back into an upright position by tilting the pelvis forward. It’s ideal for when you’re busy at your desk and for maintaining proper posture while driving.
Daily desk stretches
Anisha’s Top 3 Daily Stretches
Stretches are excellent for both improving your posture and decreasing back pain; Anisha’s top three stretches are quick and easy, enabling you to keep on top of your spinal health on even the busiest of days.
Kneel on the floor, lower your bottom onto your heels and stretch out in front of you, reaching your arms forwards. A beginner yoga pose, it's effective in combating back pain, and helps with stretching the muscles in the lower back, aligning the spine and relieving tension.
The Neck Stretch
Sitting on a chair, place one hand on the opposite side of the head from above, and gently pull your head down towards that arm’s shoulder to stretch the muscles in the side of your neck. Great for reducing stiffness and soreness in the neck, which can sometimes be caused by poor posture and is a potential trigger for back pain, this is a simple stretch with big benefits.
The Pec Stretch
Interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch out your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades behind you. A straightforward everyday stretch, this increases flexibility in your pectoral muscles, and can also aid you in achieving and maintaining the correct posture.
To make an appointment with Anisha Joshi visit www.osteoanisha.com
To create an at-home gym on a budget read our article here.