Friday, December 30, 2011

Let's talk about Posture!

So I'm sure you've been told at one point and time to "sit up straight" or "stop slouching". So whats the big deal? Well your health! Proper posture is fundamental to normal body function and can ease some of the stress and strain associated with prolonged sitting or standing. When you practice good posture, you've minimized the strain on your muscles and ligaments, reduced stress on your spinal cord, maximized rib movement for easier and fuller breathing, and are preventing fatigue and overuse. Wow!

"Proper" posture is NOT forced and doesn't involve you sticking your chest out. This is a big misconception and I want to clear it up.

Standing Posture
Proper standing posture involves your head being held over your neck, the ear canal being in line with the middle of your shoulder when seen from the side, shoulders relaxed with the arms hanging to your sides (not forced downward with the chest sticking out!), pelvis relaxed and slightly tilted forward (your belly may hang forward but don't suck it in!), knees directly over ankles, and toes pointing directly forward (not pointing in or fanning outward). Ok, I know this sounds like a lot so here's some pictures to illustrate the do's and don'ts...

Sitting Posture
If you're sitting at a desk the monitor/book should be at eye level and the keyboard should allow your elbows and wrists to be at the same level. Your chair should be directly underneath you with your bottom in the center of the chair and then the height of the chair should be adjusted so that your feet sit comfortably on the floor in front of the chair (no dangling feet, knees bent above your hips, or feet tucked the chair). If you are having difficulties or lack equipment to support these healthy workplace habits talk to your supervisor about obtaining monitor stands, new chairs, or foot rests in order to prevent injuries such as neck/back pain, disc herniations, shoulder injuries, and even carpal tunnel. I offer ergonomic consultations for workplaces in order to support healthy habits for workers and to prevent injuries in the workplace which not only cuts down on time off due to injury but also decreases worker's compensation injuries as well. (It's a Win-Win!)

Proper sitting posture involves your head being held over your neck, your ear canal inline with the middle of your shoulder, shoulders and chest relaxed (not pressed down with the chest sticking out), pelvis slightly tilted forward (not tucked or over-tilted), knees below or at level of the hips, and feet placed on floor shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward.

Again, I'm going to stress TALK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR if you're having a hard time achieving this position. Or better yet, have your supervisor call or email me and I'd be happy to schedule a consultation for your workplace. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stress Effects on Your Body!

The holidays have rolled around again and with the holidays comes the stress associated with work deadlines and end of the year duties, hosting family get gatherings, listening to Aunt Martha's "original" stories you've heard a million times, shopping for the perfect gift for Uncle Ted (the man who has everything), and managing the holiday finances with enough cheer and finesse to officially put you over-budget in the New Year. Not to mention the added stress if the In-Laws come to visit!

But the real problem isn't the frazzled cook in the kitchen or the awkward silence at the table. It's the things that happen in your body while you're under this stress. Now you're asking yourself, what IS happening? So lets start with the basics.

What is stress?
A normal physiological response to a situation that has made you feel threatened or upset. Your body goes into a "fight or flight" mode and your body kicks into defensive overdrive where your physiological responses are heightened and quick. This can be great if you're about to be attacked by a tiger, but if that "tiger" is currently living in your guest room for the next three days it can really take a toll on your body to be on edge for three days straight.

What can be affected by stress?
Health conditions such as pain, headaches, jaw pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive complaints, sleep problems, depression, auto immune disorders, asthma, arthritis, and skin conditions can be exacerbated or even caused from excessive and/or chronic stress. In addition, Vitamin C and Chromium (a necessary nutrient that helps to balance glucose metabolism, maintain healthy blood sugar, and even effect the menstrual cycle in women) stores in your body can become depleted and your immune system response can be decreased with chronic and repeated stress. It has been estimated that 75-90% of all doctors visits are for a stress related ailment or complaints.

What can I do?
1. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is your body's way of "resetting the system" and helps to increase metabolism and immune response while giving your hormones a chance to balance and your brain bounce back from the day's events.

2. Eat a healthy diet. Proper nutrition such as fresh fruits and vegetables (especially in many different colors) have great benefits besides the vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants because they help to support your immune system and help your body to bounce back from stressful situations faster.

3. Drink plenty of water. Water helps to hydrate your tissues to prevent injury and it also helps keep your blood pressure stable.

4. Practice safe stress. Take some time to yourself each day to relax and do some deep breathing. Pick an activity that makes you feel refreshed or free such as crafting, physical activity, cooking, or even a scenic drive. It will help your stress levels go down and prevent you from passing on your anxious energy to family and friends around you.

5. Reduce your stress as much as possible. Take a break when you feel overwhelmed and get some fresh air. Bargain with a relative about taking in that irritating relative if you're already preparing the holiday meal for the family gathering. Try to reduce the amount of money you're spending on presents by shopping early, catching great deals online, or even having a friend pick up presents for you at stores that have discounts on large purchase amounts.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation with me to discuss some great "Practicing Safe Stress" tips feel free to comment or shoot me an email! Have a happy holiday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

Hello and welcome to my blog! I am starting this blog as a resource of healthy habits, tips, and general commentary to refer patients, colleagues, and other interested parties towards. I hope this blog will aid you in starting some healthy habits and sharing what you've learned with family and friends. If you have any questions, comments, or things you'd like to see me post about shoot me an email and I'll be happy to respond!