PREVENT SITTING PAIN

Adda Chua, 32 years old, who is self-employed in the digital marketing industry says she has been losing track of time, and working longer hours since working from home due to COVID-19. Appointments to see clients in their offices have been canceled.

She finds herself in the same seated position over longer periods, which has resulted in her persistent neck and low back pain.

RISING CASES OF MUSCLE STRAIN AND INJURIES

When there is no interruption or social interaction unlike at the office, you “get absorbed in your work,” Chua was quoted to have said in a recent article by the Straits Times on the rising rates of muscle strain and injuries as more Singaporeans work from home.

If you like Chua find you are sitting more than usual, having regular rest-breaks, developing a good sitting posture and doing core exercises like Pilates can help counter the effects of prolonged sitting.

Stronger core, stronger body
Stronger Core, Stronger Body. Side planking on the Pilates chair. Stronger core muscles translate to more shoulder and wrist stability, and better alignment.

TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS 

Taking frequent breaks from the desk is a quick and easy way to combat long hours of sitting. Most people do not take rest breaks because taking breaks interrupt their workflow. But standing up to stretch or walking from the chair to make yourself a drink is good for your health, according to an Australian study in 2010.

The study examined 11,000 people who watched television for four hours or more a day. Researchers found those who took the most number of breaks from sitting had a lower body mass index, less bad cholesterol and lower blood sugar than those who took the least breaks. They also have a narrower waist circumference of 6 cm on average. A 6-cm waist difference means if you are a size L, you could wear a size M by simply taking more breaks.

The study shows the benefit of frequent breaks, which act like mini jump-starters to prevent the body’s metabolism from slowing down when we sit.

GOOD SITTING POSTURE

While having rest intervals help, developing a good sitting posture is as important in preventing aches and pain related to sitting.

What is a good sitting posture? Sitting posture is usually assessed using the plumb line. If an imaginary line is drawn, connecting the lobe of the ear, shoulder joint and hip joint, the line is straight and perpendicular to the thigh bone. This straight line is known as the plumb line, or the line of gravity. (See Figure A)

What is neutral spine?
Figure A: Good sitting posture. The ear lobe, shoulder joint and hip joint are on the plumb line, which is perpendicular to the thigh bone. The body’s weight is vertically below the body’s base of support (or pelvis.) The spine maintains its natural curves.

When observed from either the front or back, the plumb line theoretically passes through the body’s centre of gravity, dividing the body into two equal halves. The body’s weight is evenly distributed on both pelvis. The pelvis, the bony structure between the upper body and legs, carries the body’s weight when we sit. It is the base of support for the spine.

While the force of gravity is straight, notice the spine is not. The spine has three natural curves, which are at the neck, mid-and-upper back and low back. When these curves are maintained, the spine is described as in a “neutral” position.

LOSING NEUTRAL RESULTS IN NECK AND BACK PAIN

Slouching and hunching on the chair
Poor sitting postures: Slouching (Figure B) and hunching (Figure C.)  The body’s weight is not vertically below the body’s base of support. The load is behind the pelvis in Figure B, and in front of the pelvis in Figure C. Having a bad posture increases the curves of the spine.

The spine loses its “neutral” when we slouch or hunched on a chair. Sitting with a slouched posture rounds the low back, which changes the curves on the rest of the spine. (See Figure B.) It causes the mid-and-upper back to round further and shift behind the low back. The neck shift forward and drops owing to the weight of the head.

The head becomes the weakest point on the spine in a slouched posture, as it is not supported by the mid or low back. Instead, the load is carried mostly by the head and neck muscles, which makes these muscles overactive. Overtime, slouching tightens the head and neck muscles, while inhibiting the mid and low back muscles which become weak as a result.

HUNCHING AFFECTS THE RIBS AND MID-BACK

Hunching over a computer is another example of a poor posture. It causes the shoulders to round forward and shortens the posterior neck muscles. (See Figure C.) The mid-section of the spine collapses in a hunched position, which prevents the mid-back muscles from extending. Hunching makes the neck and shoulders tight and over-active, while inhibiting the mid back. It compresses the ribs which may result in rib pain and/or breathing difficulties if the position is held for a prolonged period of time.

Another muscle that tightens in a hunched position is the low back. The forward position of the body places additional load on the low back to prevent the body from falling forward. The back also loses some support from the pelvis (the body’s base of support) as the body’s weight is not directly above the pelvis.

BUTTOCK PAIN

Other examples of poor postures include sitting with your legs crossed and sitting with a side lean. Not sitting evenly on both pelvis creates an uneven pelvis. An uneven pelvis may result in buttock pain and leg-length differences which may affect walking patterns.

If you are sitting more and you are finding it hard to keep a good posture, core exercises like Pilates are particularly useful to help you improve your posture and stabilise the pelvis.

CORE EXERCISES IMPROVE POSTURE

The pelvis includes the two hip bones, sacrum and coccyx (or tail bone.) Shaped like a basin, the pelvis is the bony structure in which the spine sits on. In a sitting position, the pelvis carries the load of the upper body. The pelvis also holds our stomach, intestines, bladder and other organs.

The trunk encompasses the low back, abdomen and pelvis. Core muscles are deep stabilising muscles of the abdomen as well as of the trunk. When core muscles contract they create a compressive force around the abdomen and trunk which increases trunk stability. Trunk stability not only keeps the low back and pelvis stable when we move, but stable trunk also keeps the rest of the body stable.

WOBBLY TRUNK CREATES WOBBLY ARMS AND FEET

For example, take planking, a popular core exercise. To do a good plank, you need to activate your core muscles to support your abdomen and low back. If  your core muscles are not strong, and the trunk starts to wobble, your arms would wobble, and your head and neck would drop. Your feet would also slide and slip, and your body drops to the floor. Other body parts of the body become less stable when the trunk is unstable. So doing core exercises not only improve abdominal and low back strength, but it also has a positive influence on the rest of the body.

A stable trunk, held by strong core muscles, translates to stable low back and pelvis. The pelvis is stable or “neutral” when it is neither in a posterior or anterior tilt. A “neutral” pelvis effects change on the low back, which in turn creates a positive chain effect on upper curves of the spine, bringing them also back to “neutral.” Restoring the natural curves of the spine release tension on the head, neck and shoulders. So if you have tension headaches, neck or shoulder pain, improving your posture can bring relieve to these areas.

Research shows the position of the pelvis is the most important factor in determining alignment and posture of the body. There is a strong correlation between pelvic angle and lumbar lordosis, which shape the thoracic kyphosis. The pelvic position also have “significant correlations” on the head and neck positions. So if you want to have a good posture, it is important to improve your core strength.

PILATES OFFERS A VARIETY OF CORE EXERCISES

Pilates offers a variety of exercises to strengthen your core muscles. For example, the Pilates chair improves core strength in a sitting position. The chair is one of the many apparatus or equipment created by Joseph Pilates (1883 – 1967) to help people do the exercises.

If you feel you have weak core muscles and a poor sitting posture, the Pilates chair helps you to practice good sitting posture and slowly build up your strength. The Pilates chair exercises are also useful if you have leg pain, and cannot stand for too long. The chair allows you to work your lower limbs and core muscle in a sitting position.

Incidentally, the Pilates chair has an Asian influence. The inspiration for the chair came from Chinese acrobats. Joseph Pilates saw them performing with chairs in a circus.

Pilates improves posture, balance
Balanced Body sport ambassador Andy Dalton standing on the Pilates chair. The American NFL player says doing Pilates has helped him stay fit during the COVID-19 lockdown. (Photo source: Forbes)

CHALLENGE YOUR CORE

You do not always have to sit on the Pilates chair. If you are an athlete looking to increase your core strength, how about standing on the chair? Standing on the chair, while doing leg work challenges your dynamic stability. You work your core muscles harder. The exercise strengthens your core and improves your balance. Having good dynamic stability helps you to run, throw and lift better, and avoid injury. It is particularly beneficial for athletes.

Pilates offers different levels of core challenges to suit different fitness levels and goals. It is one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your core.

Can Pilates help improve cycling posture?

Is your driving posture causing you pain?

How to improve sitting posture?

Cycling, driving or sitting on a stool with wheels. Strengthening your core muscles help you adapt to different types of chairs, so that you can always find your “neutral” spine.

HELP YOU ADAPT TO DIFFERENT CHAIRS

What if you have a harder chair, no backrest or a moving chair? No problem. When your core muscles are active, your body intuitively knows how to adapt to the new chair. No cushion, no back support, no fear.

It may be impossible for you to sit less. You may have a job which requires you to log in to your computer or laptop to work for most of the day. Taking frequent breaks, watching your posture and doing Pilates can help you counter the ill-effects of sitting. Core muscles are important for good posture because core stability effects changes on the pelvis and spine. Bringing the spine curves back to “neutral,” release tension not only on the low back, but also on the head, neck and shoulders.

So schedule a Pilates session today. Get started


Medical Disclaimer: Always consult your physician if you have an existing pain or a pre-existing medical condition before beginning any exercise. The above information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or replace your healthcare professional.

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    Testimonials

    Reversing The Effects of Sitting

    I spend lots of hours sitting on a chair, in front of my laptop and that's harmful for my body and specially my back. I see May every week for Pilates and she helps me restore balance, finding healthier postures for my body and releasing from the weekly erosion.
    Gloria

    Weekly Pilates, important in my schedule

    I often wear high heels which affect my posture. I walked with a hunch. I have the pleasure of improving my posture in the Pilates classes at Move Therapy. When I see myself in the mirror, I see the change. I stand straight. I put Pilates down as important in my schedule. I make it a point to come for exercise every week.
    Lee

    Each week I walk away with a smile

    Just completed my 6th Pilates session and I feel great. I have really noticed the difference already. I am feeling stronger and fitter from my sessions. The care, precision and attention, that May provides, has allowed me to make quick progress and to concentrate on my posture, core strength and flexibility. I love attending my reformer session and each week I walk away with a smile!
    Lucy

    BETTER POSTURE

    "The result is amazing! My posture has improved. I now stand taller and walk with greater balance. I enjoy every Pilates class with its varied exercises using muscles that I did not know I have."
    Kwee Eng

    LOVE THE CLASS

    "I love the Pilates class! The clear, well-structured and creative exercises sometimes left me feeling sore, but glad I went. The instructor tailored the exercises to suit class members, provided individual attention to everyone on alignment and posture improvement. I found her “hands on” approach very helpful. It helped me understand what I need to work on. Going to the classes have improved my posture, flexibility and strength. Definitely for people who are interested in increasing their flexibility, balance and strength!"
    Chew Hoey

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