Posture has long been one of the main factors that chiropractors the world over hold responsible for a large chunk of their patronsâ€™ problems. Traditionally, weâ€™ve all been taught to keep a straight posture in everything we do to keep joint and muscle strain and tension at bay â€“ Dr. Kevin Cressey, however, says thereâ€™s a better solution: leaning back.
â€œWith the advent of computers, we sit for a long period of time, and we tend to migrate our head forward in a â€˜poke-neckâ€™ posture,â€ observes Cressey. â€œ’Poke-neckâ€™ posture is not good for your neck, not good for your back, certainly develops neck and shoulder tension, and adds stress on the joints. The problem with this is over time, we start to develop stress in the joints and stress in the shoulders, and we wonder why â€“ and it really has to do with how we sit and migrate our head forward towards the computer.â€
With this Cressey began looking into the matter, researching and studying on how to best deal with the growing posture problem in the workplace.
â€œI went to the lean-back. The lean-back in your chair usually has some type of recline and it usually has something to give support for your lower back,â€ he says, and that support is important.
According to Cressey, leaning back slightly at a 120Â° angle at the hips is the optimal position, bumping off most peopleâ€™s beliefs that sitting up straight is the proper way to sit.
â€œWhen you sit upright at a 90Â° angle, your back is not relaxed. Youâ€™re firing all the muscles in your back, and your neck tends to move forward towards the screen â€“ not a good position. So my suggestion is to lean back! Enjoy that seat. Take a load off of the back, relax those muscles on the back, and bring your workstation to you,â€ the good doctor recommends.
Depending on whether you wear glasses, your ideal distance from your monitor should be roughly an armâ€™s length says Cressey. Your eyes should also be at level with the upper third of your monitor to give you a natural down-gaze at your screen.
These are just general ideas on a more relaxed position at work, however, as there are a lot more individual factors to consider that may affect a personâ€™s posture. To ensure that his patients are working at optimal efficiency, Cressey himself likes to drop by his patientsâ€™ work area, assessing and treating on the fly.
â€œFor my patients, often, what Iâ€™ll do, if theyâ€™re within a somewhat reasonable driving range, Iâ€™ll just drive out to their office, or Iâ€™ll have them snap a picture with their iPad or something and send me an email with it â€“ but I like to get my hands-on and see exactly what theyâ€™re working with and see what other factors might be contributing.â€
â€œAre you right-eye dominant or left-eye dominant? Would you say that all your work is on the right side of your desk or the left side of your desk? Do you think that you turn your head a bit more during your day?â€ These are some questions that Cressey asks to find out what other factors may add to back and neck strains.
â€œOne of the things that is really of interest is you increase your sympathetic nervous response by stressing your nerves. So when you stretch your nerves, you increase your sympathetic nerve response, and you increase your cortisol levels, and your stress goes up, and your immune system goes down, and this is bad. Poor posture does this.â€
Sitting up straight in itself does not necessarily pose a risk, though, says Cressey. â€œIf youâ€™re sitting at an office for five minutes and you sit up straight, I donâ€™t think itâ€™s gonna lead to too much problems, but itâ€™s the person who sits for six, 10,12 hours at a time, your accountants, your attorneys, people who work at a desk â€“ which is almost all of us nowadays â€“ and sit for many hours and donâ€™t move from that position â€“ weâ€™re not getting hydration in the discs, weâ€™re not bending and moving enough â€“ these are important things to keep in mind.â€
â€œNow, if you did want to sit up straight at a 90 degree angle, youâ€™re gonna have to do a so many abdominal exercises to strengthen your abs so you can normalize the pressure from the front and back and make it even. You can do it, but itâ€™s a lot harder. I prefer for my patients to relax, let your muscles relax, and do your work.â€
Another tip Cressey gives is to take the occasional breaks away from work to loosen up get the body moving. â€œGo to the water cooler. Go to the bathroom. You go to the water cooler enough, youâ€™ll certainly go to the bathroom,â€ jokes Cressey. â€œTaking breaks, this is what I recommend. You go and do that, and you force yourself to get up. You rest your eyes for a couple of minutes, you get your spine moving, you get your hips moving, and you are in a better position.â€
When asked of how his findings could affect kids, who spend most of the day sitting at their desks at school, Cressey replied: â€œWell, itâ€™s not likely that children are gonna be in a supportive chair like we are in an office where theyâ€™re reclining back. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s gonna really harm them to sit up straight. I think itâ€™s better to teach them that as a kid. When they stand with a straighter posture theyâ€™re more likely not to hunch forward as theyâ€™re sitting up straight.â€
â€œThey really want to avoid the leaning forward, hunching forward, the migrating their head forward, which â€“ letâ€™s face it â€“ kids nowadays, I see them texting, I see them playing their PlayStations, all this stuff, and their heads are face-forward and down. Thatâ€™s really the thing. Bring the head upright, tuck the chin back, and look straight ahead. That would be the best thing Iâ€™m not as worried with their lower backs and slouching.â€
Cressey also mentioned talking on the phone as one of the posture problems that often go unnoticed.
â€œTalking on the phone, use a headset. Donâ€™t tilt your head to the side. All that does is put too much pressure on your joints and your cervical spine. You tilt your head to the side like that to hold the phone, itâ€™s just gonna be a problem. Use a headset if youâ€™re on the phone. Use the phone in the dominant ear. I see patients walk out of here in the parking lot doing that as theyâ€™re calling somebody. And I usually shoot them a text and say â€˜put your headset onâ€™,â€ says Cressey with a smile.
When heâ€™s not helping others with their Chiropractic needs, you can find Dr. Cressey outdoors either hiking, climbing, cycling, or running. He is the Founder of the Pasadena Hiking Pacers, a free community hiking group who meet every week for a new adventure! Check them out at www.PasadenaHikingPacers.org. Dr. Cressey is also on the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Jaycees, Vice President of Public Relations for the Crown City Toastmasters and the Vice President of the Founderâ€™s Chapter of Business Networking International.
For more information, contact Dr. Cressey at his office at 131 North El Molino Avenue, Suite180 in Pasadena or call (626) 792-1221. His website can be found at www.kevincresseydc.moonfruit.