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Straight Up Ergonomics

Jul 25, 2019 | 14m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • Why yoga may not actually be for you and what exercises you should be considering
  • Why telling someone to sit up straight won’t really solve the problem and could make things worse
  • Implement good postural habits and techniques that support you through your 9-5 desk-bound job


What Your Posture is Saying

Do you instinctively remind someone to “sit up straight”? Or do others often tell you the same thing? Contrary to popular belief, sitting up straight doesn’t actually fix the real problem.

Our natural posture is an indication of our spinal health – so if sitting up straight feels unnatural, it points to a joint dysfunction in our bodies. It’s likely that your spine has already lost its healthy cervical curve. There could be a misalignment, our bones are moving too much or too little, something is restricting that movement, or there’s some kind of instability. To prevent further degeneration, our bodies adapt our resting postures to protect and preserve the spine.

So, when we then force ourselves to sit up straight, we’re prompting our muscles to do the work of holding our spine up. We then end up contracting our muscles to maintain a straight posture, but in a few minutes our muscles tire and we sink back into our resting state. Our muscles’ primary job is not to hold up the spine. Their function is to allow us to move our joints.

Here’s an analogy to help you understand the different functions of our spine and muscles. Think of your body as a building, where your spine serves as the beams. Beams provide structural support. Muscles, on the other hand, are walls. Walls provide some support, but while a hole in the wall won’t cause major structural damage, a fault in the beams can collapse the building.

“Solving postural issues requires looking into both the spine and its supporting muscles, especially how they’re working with each other.”

When the spine isn’t working as it should, our muscles have to take over the role of holding us upright - the more conditioned the muscles are, the longer they withstand the additional stress. When muscles fatigue, however, the bone breaks down in order to regenerate and provide stability to the body. While these fused bones may be stronger, they do not allow movement.

Remember that age is no barrier when it comes to spinal degeneration. A child as young as five years old can display symptoms of degeneration. If postural issues aren’t corrected when they first arise, it becomes difficult to “sit straight” because their bodies have already accommodated to the initial trauma.

What should you do if your spine needs some work?

Seek Help

It’s better to take a preventative approach when it comes to your spinal health. My first visit to a chiropractor was at the age of 21, when I was suffering from pain. Instead of waiting for a problem to arise, you should check in regularly with a doctor or chiropractor to correct minor issues before they snowball into larger injuries. Make sure that you do some due diligence when you’re choosing a chiropractor to work with. Some chiropractors are specially trained to work with certain spinal conditions such as scoliosis. Given that there are many techniques for chiropractic treatment, it’s in your best interest to do your research to find the right fit for you. Just as you wouldn’t hire the first person that you interviewed for a job, it doesn’t hurt to consult a few different chiropractors before choosing one. Ask questions based on your research to get a sense of their areas of expertise. If they’re unable to help you address your specific concerns, they’re likely to refer you to a colleague who can.

Other than visiting a healthcare practitioner, you can apply the principles of ergonomics to the various spheres of your life to support healthy movement. I’ll share more about this in the following chapters.

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