In a previous article on posture, I warn everyone about the danger from bad posture. This article is Posture Warning: A continuation of the 4 S’s. The first three refer to problems with sitting which included sliding, slouching, and slumping. Technically, a person can still slouch in standing but if you follow my instructions below, your posture will be protected from slouching! Now I will continue the story about standing posture with S#4 – STOOPING.
Before I explain my deal about stooping, I will describe what good standing posture should look like. Looking in front of a mirror, the feet should be about hip width apart with equal weight on both feet and toes pointing forward, slightly turned out. The weight should also be balanced between the middle of the foot and the heel. From here it’s all about lining everything up vertically. Knees will be straight with the hips centered over the ankles. Then imagine there is a marionette string pulling straight up from the crown of the head to bring the back upright. Chest bump just a little while squeezing the shoulders back. Finally, tuck the chin slightly back so eyes are level and the ear canal lines up over the shoulders which are over the hips and ankles. If that sounds like a lot of things to think about then you might need to try it out to see what may be missing in your posture strategies.
Now back to S#4. Stooping is a natural movement people use to reach things that are below knee level. For example, bending over to tie sneakers, or reaching down to pick up little kids, even cleaning the litter box, and weeding the garden. Have you ever watched a farmer in the field bent over planting seed by hand? That’s stooping.
Now why in the world would I suggest that people in general have a stooping problem? That’s because it’s hidden in so many things that we do it’s gets lost in the focus on a task. Like most posture problems, our minds focus on what we have to do, not how we do it. This can lead to injury, if not the next time, sometime down the road.
Why is stooping a problem? When we bend our upper body forward and reaching hands out there is a lot more work going on in the back muscles to keep the body resisting gravity. Working the back muscles is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, exercising the back muscles to build strength will help protect from stooping concerns. The problem is that most people don’t practice exercise for their back muscles and the over use the stooping strategy.
Sustained stooping is a real problem because muscles can’t hold on forever. Muscles get tired after working for so long. In the case of stooping, about 2-5 minutes is a safe limit when using proper form (that’s right, there’s a better way to stoop and a worse way to stoop). Some jobs require stooping especially if you aren’t able to bend the knees to squat or kneel down.
Consider this, how many times do you bend over for activities like dressing, bathing, and grooming? Then consider how many times you might bend over to cook, clean, and do laundry. It starts to add up quickly. A world renowned bio-scientist, Dr. Stuart McGill has identified that a single disc in the lower back has only so many bends before it breaks. It’s like a wire coat hanger that gets bent back and worth too many times, it breaks apart. We may not know exactly how many bends it will take until someone’s disc slips out, but it happens more frequently between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.
To prevent injuries to the back from stooping you can try these 5 methods to spare your back. First, if you have to bend over to stoop make sure that your work is directly in front of your body. Do no twist and stoop, that’s wicked bad for the back. Second, if you have to stoop, take a break every couple of minutes. Simply, stand upright for 30 seconds so the back muscles can get some blood flow. Third, for longer activities reaching below the knees, get a 5-gallon bucket and turn it over to sit. There are other types of small stools you could use instead of a bucket. The point is, lower your center of gravity to reduce strain on the back.
The fourth recommendation to prevent stooping injuries, take a knee. This is the same idea of sitting on a stool except you can move a little easier if you have to go side to side. Getting on your hands and knees is really the next phase of kneeling because working on ground level is easier when you are on the ground. Finally the fifth suggestion is about shoes and socks. To reach your foot to don a sock or tie a shoe, bring your foot up to you rather than bending down to it. This can be accomplished by stepping the foot up on a chair so you only bend over part way. Or, sit down and cross one leg over the other to cut the distance to reaching your foot.
In in upcoming article I will continue to discuss posture. What is the problem with most people’s posture? Let’s just say, posture can have a lazy feeling that can drag us down.