Spine consists of 33 asymmetrical bones
The spine (also called the backbone or the vertebral column) consists of 33 asymmetrical bones and is divided into five parts based on the position of these vertebrae in the spinal column. The first seven vertebrae are called the cervical vertebrae as they are in the neck region. After them, come the next twelve thoracic vertebrae in the region of the upper trunk. The twelve ribs are attached to these vertebrae. Next are the five lumbar vertebrae which are the biggest in size. They give attachment to the strong muscles of the back and bear most of the body weight. The next four to five vertebrae fuse together after the age of 26 years to form a triangular bone known as the sacrum. The coccyx (also called the tailbone) is the lower most part of the vertebral column. It consists of four to five vertebrae which fuse as the age advances. It along with the sacrum provides attachment to important muscles of the hip region.
Besides providing attachment to the ribs and various muscles of the back, the most important function of the backbone is protection of the spinal cord and the nerves arising from it. It supports the head and the upper and lower extremities while permitting their free movement.
The gravitational force of the earth is constantly acting on us. The body’s configuration and position in response to this force is called Posture. According to the Physical Therapy Dictionary, good posture is “the state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity irrespective of the attitude in which these structures are working or resting.” Good posture results in uniform dispensing of gravitational force across the body so that no single part is under any undue pressure for a prolonged period. By maintaining a good posture, the entire body is in a state of equilibrium. It is especially beneficial for the spinal cord as it helps in proper travel of the nerve signals to the various body parts.
A bad posture may be due to many factors like spending too much time at a desk job, in front of the TV, play station or a computer, wrong way of standing or sleeping, prolonged driving, obesity, or lack of confidence. A bad posture can change the curvature of the spine from a normal ‘S’ to an abnormal ‘C’ resulting in many spine problems. Some of these spine problems are headache, pain in the neck, back and joints, stinging or lack of sensations in the extremities, lethargy and general low esteem. Other spine problems include a buffalo hump appearance, a forward head posture, stiffness of the muscles and tension. Almost 70-80% of the people visit the doctor at least once in their life time because of a spine problem.
The word “ergonomics” is obtained from two Greek words: "ergon," meaning work, and "nomoi," meaning natural laws. Ergonomists study the association between the work requirements and the potential of the employee. According to the opinion of different ergonomists, all employees will greatly benefit if:
- All the joints perform at their optimal level.
- The force is applied using the most suitable and biggest group of muscles.
- The employees are allowed to change their postures frequently.
Tips to improve posture
Ergonomists have provided various tips to improve posture. They include:
- Awareness about the nature of pain: One should know about the different types of pain arising out of poor posture as only awareness can lead to correction of the underlying condition. A pain that is present on office days but subsides on weekends, improves or worsens on changing position, aggravates on a particular long day at office and radiates from the neck to the finger tips and lower back can be attributed to poor posture.
- Regular movement: Sitting in one position for a prolonged period of time can lead to undue burden on the muscles of the neck and the spine resulting in their soreness. Frequent change in position or stretching at regular intervals can provide respite from this muscular pain.
- Maintaining proper posture while working: A tip to improve posture is that the ear lobes, the shoulder blades and the hip must fall in the same vertical plane. Care should be taken to maintain this configuration even while sitting. No joint or muscle group must bear constant pressure; rather, the posture must be such that all the joints are in their optimal positions. All the large muscle groups of the back must equally bear the weight.
- Employing ergonomic office furniture: Another tip for improving posture is using proper ergonomic chairs with back- rests which can be adjusted, foot-rests and pillows so that the back is not strained. The level of computer screen should be adjusted such that the eyes are not strained, nor does one have to bend the head forwards too much.
- Knowledge of correct ergonomics: We should be aware of our posture, the difference between good and bad posture and the ill-effects of bad posture on our health so that it becomes a habit to maintain good ergonomics.
- Regular work-outs: The importance of regular exercising cannot be stressed more. It helps in making the back muscles strong and improves the overall posture.
- Caring for one’s feet: While standing for long hours, it is the feet which bear the maximum brunt. They can be buttressed by using rubber mats. Wearing high heels to work is a complete no-no, as it shifts the centre of gravity of the body causing a lot of damage to the back and ankle joint.
- Ergonomics while in movement: It is very important to be careful about one’s posture while lifting heavy weights and walking along with them as an improper posture may put a lot of undue strain on the muscle of upper back resulting in their injury.
- Investing in an ergonomic friendly environment: Small investments in making the work place ergonomic friendly goes a long way in reducing the recurrent strain related injuries, work related tension, poor fitness and low self esteem of the employees which result in a loss of man days.
- Remember that movement is necessary: The various joints in our body have been designed to facilitate movement. An important tip for improving posture is to keep these joints in working condition. Avoiding their movement for fear of injury may lead to their stiffness resulting in pain and further reduction in movement.
Posture Awareness Month
Chiropractic associations like the A.C.A (American Chiropractic Association) and the I.C.A (International Chiropractors Association) have started to observe May as ‘Posture Awareness Month’ to increase consciousness about correct body configuration and improve the posture and overall wellbeing of the people all over the world.