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Posted by Siobhan on 13th Jun 2017
Posture is a multifaceted thing. It is constantly moving and changing to suit your body's needs during various tasks. Some activities, due to their nature, equipment set up, use, over use or the technique you have will encourage you to slouch, but that doesn't have to be the case. The trick here is to think like an Occupational Therapist. An OT looks at your every day tasks and activities and works out where you can do them better to minimise strain on your body, reduce fatigue and your chance of injury- and these changes can make a huge difference. Of course it's always better if you can get exposure to the real thing, but if you can understand a little bit the way an OT looks at tasks you will be able to identify small differences you can make at home to improve to remove obstacles in the way of ideal posture. Here are three ideas brought to you by our super star OT Lorraine Josey.
1. What's your computer set up like outside the office?
Most of us by now should have beautiful, ergonomic workstations (and if you don't you should read this and speak to the boss, pronto!) But if you take your work home or outside the office regularly you could be coaxing your shoulders back down into a hunch, and those cafe lunch meetings or laptop couch sessions add up.
Observe your body's position as soon as you open your laptop. If the table you are sitting at in the cafe is too high you are better off putting the laptop on your lap then letting your shoulders creep up to reach the keys. If the chair you are sitting in encourages slouching by being slippery or too straight put your handbag or a jumper behind your lumber (lower back) to support your back's natural curve. Perhaps you do need to invest in a proper desk at home? Or if that's not possible, look at how your kitchen table or your work areas could be improved by elevating your chair, or using a seperate keyboard and raising your screen. Again this guide has boxes you need ticked for a safe workstation.
2. How heavy is your handbag?
This is a big one. If a bag is too heavy you are straining your back no matter which way you hold it. Try to lighten your load each night so you aren't carrying unnecessary weight. Every little bit counts, perhaps it's time you switched to a smaller purse with just a few cards and cash instead of that big chunky wallet? Or re-access your key collection and key ring. Or even invest in two laptop chargers- one for home and one for work. If you have a lot to take too and from the office a wheelie bag is always best. You'll be surprised at the wonders this simple switch can do to your energy levels. Next best is a backpack style. If neither is an option, make sure you are wearing the strap across your body, changing shoulders periodically, and avoiding long distances carrying that weight.
3. What do your tasks look like?
Take a look at the tasks you are doing regularly with an OT's eye to see where your posture needs work. A good hint is notice when you are feeling tired or achey and look at the activities leading to that. Over stretching our body is often the cause- if you have too far to reach to pick up something, or if your broom or shovel handle is too short- you are straining your body unnecessarily. Holding your phone with your hand instead of your shoulder, operating tools correctly, crouching down to address small children instead of bending your back, or mopping closer to your body instead of in big wide sweeps are examples of simple changes you can make to help your body move efficiently. Making the movements you do regularly kinder on your body will make a big difference to your posture and pain levels. If it's a work task you are worried about, request an OT assessment through your employer to make sure everyone is operating at their peak and reducing injury.
Over time, your BackTone will help teach you what good posture feels like, so activities in which you slouch will stand out more and more.