Tag Archives: sitting and standing

Static Sitting and Correct Posture

To Fix Forward Head Posture, You May Need to Look at Your “Ass”ets….

My name is Kim Romaner, and I’m the blog editor for Physical Performance Solutions.  Today I’ll be interviewing CEO Lori Peacock on correcting Forward Head Posture, or FHP.

I have to admit that I’m conducting this interview on a somewhat personal basis, because many years ago I had a pretty bad car accident that left me with a bunch of neck and back issues. I also work on a computer for a great portion of my day (maybe you do, too!), and I find myself constantly correcting my posture as I realize that my shoulders have slumped forward, my chin is up and my head is back, which is absolutely the worst posture in the world for me.

I’ve read an enormous amount of material, online and off, on how to correct this, but it didn’t really work for me on a consistent basis until Lori straightened me out. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with neck and back pain, then take a read. I’m sure you’ll find it helpful.

Two Wrong Chair PosturesKim: Hi, Lori!  Thanks for taking some time to talk today.

Lori: Always a pleasure, Kim!

Kim: So, as you know, my neck hurts quite a bit due to a long-ago injury combined with my daily work habits.  I sit a lot, I use a computer constantly, I might be set up ergonomically well or not, etcetera.

Lori: Welcome to 99% of the world! They’re now saying that sitting is the new cancer; that is, cancer risk dramatically increases the more time you spend in a sitting position. This is, unfortunately, the case for many, and it’s a challenging problem to solve.

Kim: It has been for me.  The “experts” say that you need to keep your head in a neutral position.  My problem has been, I couldn’t ever really tell when my head was in a neutral position.

Lori: Most people can’t. Learning to feel what your body is doing does not come naturally to most people.  And for one person it will feel one way, and for another, a different way.  This is one of my pet peeves about reading all of the how-to’s on the Internet and watching instructional YouTube videos.  Many people learn to perform the wrong, unintended move.

Kim: So, I read online that I’m supposed to push my chin forward and back in an exaggerated way. How does that help?

Posture Appearances are Deceiving

 

 

Lori: Well…resolving a forward head posture doesn’t necessarily begin with the head.  We need to look at the whole body first.  All things being equal, and the individual does not have a skeletal challenge, such as ankylosing spondylitis, and no other “issues” that would limit reducing a forward head posture, then, when sitting at your desk, the first thing to check and possibly correct is your pelvic alignment.

 

 

Desk Posture-2 Wrongs and 1 Right

If someone is sitting with a 90-degree hip flexion angle, their pelvis is not in a neutral position, but rather more into what is commonly known as “posterior pelvic tilt.”  A seated posterior pelvic tilt mal-aligns the spine and actually increases a forward head posture.  Therefore, increasing the hip angle, by placing the knees slightly lower than your hips, without leaning back, increases the hip angle and there an individual can learn to know their “neutral pelvic” alignment.

Once the pelvis is in a position to allow for optimal spinal alignment—close to when you are standing—then you can work on your forward head position.

Now, to speak to where you read that tucking your chin is a good exercise to correct a forward head posture; well, maybe yes, maybe no.  In the clinic, most individuals do not know how to correctly perform a “chin tuck.”  They lower their chin, rather than pushing the chin back.  This is a kinesthetic type of exercise where you need to internally feel the difference between the two movements, then pick the chosen movement.

And, I repeat that what I am saying is never a blanket statement for all individuals.  The word “individual” is the key elemental word.  All of us may not be able to perform the “chin tuck” as many Internet sites explain due to past injuries or disease processes.  Remember how you told me that you have numbness in your right fingers?

Kim: Sure do.

Lori: That’s a symptom that can be worsened by overworking the neck or moving it in a particular way if the tissues are not capable of that movement at that time.  Having said that, pain in the shoulders and upper arms can also result when we don’t correct our posture and sustain these aberrant postures for long periods of time, as I know they do for you when you overuse your neck.  Remember, static postures are the worst repetitive motion!

Kim: Yeah, sitting at the computer all day is the worst!  Although I have to say bike riding for long periods can do me in, too.

Lori: Right!  Same kind of thing. We don’t want to illicit these types of symptoms while trying to solve the problem!  That’s going backwards.

Kim: I’ve heard you speak before on how “one size fits one.” I may have to find the correct position for my head using a different methodology than someone else with different issues, right?

Lori: Absolutely.  And I love to repeat myself – we are individuals with different DNA, different life experiences.  Our tissues are a direct reflection of that; therefore, what may work for someone, may not work for you.

Kim: Any tips on how someone can check for a neutral head position themselves?

Lori: One tool you can use is what I call “the poor man’s biofeedback.”  If you can, practice sitting correctly in front of a mirror to learn what a proper neutral pelvis may look on you.  From there you would follow your spine to your head.  Then observe and feel what that looks like.  There is no easy fix.  Attempting to change years of life in one week is unrealistic.  So, change your mind and begin to enjoy the process of “relearning!”

Kim: Great tip.  Never thought of checking how my pelvis is aligned to be a part of a forward head position.

Lori: Again, this is a whole body thing.  The head must sit on a stable and correct surface for it to be correct.  Someone with experience can help you get to the right position so you know how it feels in one lesson, really.

 

Have You Really GEMBA Walked Workstation Movements?

Look on the Other Side of the Coin
Most manufacturing companies have heard, read and used a GEMBA walk within a LEAN approach to identify waste, develop more efficiency, produce what is necessary, and increase good communications through discussions with workers in a specific area and reviewing current processes.

GEMBA walks, LEAN manufacturing and Kaizen events are only a few methods and ideologies that help to spur and create the necessary positive changes in an organization. The experienced quality leader will also note the existing positive processes and conditions that produce a quality end product with efficiency, less waste, and engaged workers.

In any organization that creates products for customers, it is that end product and the high value it imparts that the customer appreciates. The common thread through manufacturing processes is to involve both the vertical management and the horizontal workforce together to identify the good and the “what is needed” for added value with less waste.

These activities often require an evolution of skill sets that happens over time through planning and conducting GEMBA walks in order to hone the process. The best and most obvious skill to develop is the eye. The eye can focus on one small object, or span out to view the larger surround. It is here, observing by eye, that the movements of workers at their stations can be viewed and more thoroughly analyzed.

Typically, when observing a worker at a station, we look globally: how far is that worker walking to obtain a part or tool? Are there too many or too few parts or tools? Maybe the worker is moving the parts too many times, or perhaps having to lift heavier parts too many times. In the process of removing waste through designing smaller work stations, reducing an overflow of parts, and creating additional work stations, workers may now only need to move their arms little, or take a few steps occasionally.

On the one hand, we are possibly helping to reduce human error, and therefore may be reducing the risk of mishandling something that results in an accident or injury. The workstation now may be such that more types of workers will be able to perform the job tasks at that station. Those are all benefits.

The “other side of the coin” is: are we creating a scenario for the worker to sustain relatively static postures, that, over time, increase fatigue in postural muscles, thereby increasing the possibility of mental fatigue, stiff muscles, sore feet and neck?

In the past few years, many of us have heard or read about the new “silent killer”: prolonged sitting. The deleterious effects of sitting are reducing quality of life by dramatically decreasing physical abilities and increasing onsets of various disease processes.

In manufacturing, however, the opposite maybe taking place: prolonged static standing. This is a common posture in assembling, the food industry, and other labor jobs. Many assembling plants are looking to minimize foot step movement and the number of times product is handled in order to decrease risk of physical injury and increase efficiency of the work tasks. The goals are excellent, but these “optimizations” may result in workers virtually frozen in prolonged standing postures.

Prolonged standing, as illustrated in the table above, has negative effects on the human body that are well documented: pooling of the blood in the lower extremities and increased muscle fatigue due to prolonged co-contraction of muscles for erect standing. Both create discomfort or pain in the feet, legs, lower back, neck, shoulders, and hips.

At Physical Performance Solutions, we have treated hundreds of individuals over the years whose static postures were a large contributing factor to soft tissue injury. In our work assisting organizations to reduce soft tissue injury in the workplace, we are seeing firsthand some of the results of these changes. Many studies published in peer review literature are coming up with similar conclusions. (FTüchsen, 2005), (Marwan El-Rich 2005).

Static loads and fixed postures are increasing stress and strain on the spine, ligaments, and surrounding soft tissues, in addition to sustained compressive forces on all load bearing joints. Occupational Health and Safety published about this subject in 2003, (Joy M. Ebben 2003), yet there more workstations than ever that are increasing standing postures. Our evidence is more than anecdotal; we are seeing more individuals with tissue adhesions not just in the lower neck/upper trapezius region, but also lumbar spine and calf muscles as well. Prior to recent redesign of particular workstations, those types of complaints and identification of adhesions was minimal.

Here are some suggestions to see if the changes your organization has made may be contributing to the “other side of the coin.” Some of these indicators should be fairly easy to track and document, while others will be more difficult due to the individual nature of each employee.

  1. Compare quality of product over time. There should significantly fewer mistakes. If there are mistakes, can you identify who is making the mistake? What time of day is the mistake being made? This is taking into account all parts and supplies are defect free.
  2. What are the age ranges of the workers at particular stations? How many women vs. men, and what are their ethnic and social backgrounds?
  3. Is there a consistent job rotation of the work area?
  4. Have there been any accidents, injuries, or other physical complaints prior to and after any changes?
  5. Are there new workers in the area now?
  6. Have soft tissue musculoskeletal disorders within that area decreased? By how much?

Manufacturing production and Lean are truly more than finding the waste and inefficiency that is external. It is also looking at any tradeoffs that might be created by reducing “wasted” movement and locking a worker into a static position for hours at a time.

Is the organization saving money in one area, but creating expenditure elsewhere, as expressed, perhaps, in days off from work due to soreness? Workers experiencing issues from changes in work movement patterns may not be confident enough to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. They might also have difficulty articulating what they are experiencing. Many workers do not truly realize that just standing can have so many ill effects on the body.

This is a microscopic view in relation to all of manufacturing and all companies that utilize Lean concepts and practices around the world. However, the “other side of the coin” bears watching, and companies that are proactive will begin to practice new approaches to further create a positive culture within the organization and an excellent product.