The Habits that hurt you
Many of our patients at Physiotherapy London come to see us with back pain, which means we hear a lot of concern about posture. While it’s true that posture and back pain are intimately linked, having a “good” posture isn’t going to make you immune.
Ten bad postures are better than one good one.
The issue is not the position you’re in, it’s how long you hold it. Even if your head is up and your back is straight, if you’re not moving around you’re eventually going to put strain on yourself. Do this every day and you’ll end up with an injury.
To test this yourself, pull back one of your fingers as far as it can go. For now, you feel fine but gradually your finger will become more and more painful, and the tissue more strained until it’s hard to continue. The same thing happens to the spine if you’re holding the same position all day, the pain just takes longer to show itself.
“Keep moving” is the most crucial advice I can give for preventing injury and strain. The problem is, for hours on end most of us aren’t moving; we’re tied to our desks, hunched over our keyboards and craning towards our screens.
Remembering to move likely isn’t the first thing on your mind if you’re hard at work, so try to find ways to force yourself to. Some people go all out with a treadmill desk, but those aren’t likely to catch on in the office. Much simpler solutions are standing desks or sitting on a gym ball, both of which make you constantly reposition yourself as you naturally keep your balance.
As we all know, regular exercise is crucial for your health but that doesn’t mean you need to spend every day in the gym. The best exercise is whatever physical activity you can stick to. There may be elaborate, time consuming fitness regimes that get the best results but most people aren’t going to continue with something that’s inconvenient or unenjoyable.
What will keep you from having to visit me is physical balance. That means working on the muscles that don’t see much action, such as your glutes and abdominals if you’re sitting all day. Even something as simple as a daily half hour walk can significantly improve your health.
However, there is such thing as bad exercise.
Take cycling. A fantastic sport and very good for most knee injuries, for many it’s also a convenient and enjoyable way to fit in some fitness and commute short distances. The growing popularity of cycling is clear to see as cycling lifestyle shops emerge across the city, and the bike highways leading to the city and Canary Wharf become busier. However there is an increasing number of lycra clad middle aged cyclists who come and see us with injuries.
If you get the wrong bike, that cycling could be doing you more harm than good. Your bike should be fitted specifically for you so that you’re not straining your joints or holding a bad riding posture.
Yet even the perfect bike can cause problems from the same issue I mentioned above: staying in one position for too long. If you’re an avid cycler, balance out the strain you’re putting on your back with some walking or jogging to straighten it and some exercises to strengthen it.
Balance is key. Physiotherapy isn’t about being super fit but about being functional, to be able to do what you enjoy. If what you enjoy is causing strain, find ways to balance it out with other activities, otherwise one day you might lose it.
Clinical Director, Physiotherapy London