Monday, October 28, 2013

Slumping and core strength while you work

Most of us fall into a slump very easily – especially after sitting for a long time.

Then in correcting a slump, we’re likely to thrust our ribs up, and tighten the lower back. Our abdominals aren’t doing their work, and this can lead to lower back pain. Over time, slumping can greatly affect the lungs (Jenkins et al. 1988, Lin et al. 2006) and other organs.

Maintaining good length in the front of the body can help restore the role of a critical abdominal muscle – the transverse abdominus which is an important stabiliser of the back and pelvis ( Hodges & Richardson 1996). More upright sitting postures also involve more recruitment of pelvic floor muscles in resting activity (Sapsford et al. 1997).

What posture are we looking for when sitting?
We want to be long through our core, along the centrally positioned spine - upwards from our sit bones to the top of our head. This requires us to be free, without slumping, in both the back and front of the body. Our shoulder girdle is resting lightly on the rib cage. Our ribs aren’t projecting forwards.

Maintaining length
In this post, we’re focusing on the front of the body from our abdomen up to our rib cage.

Here are some experiments and thought bubbles for you to try.

Rock back and forwards slightly to make sure you are sitting evenly on your sit bones, and also place your feet evenly on the floor. Be conscious of your weight falling through to the sit bones and your feet.

Now place a hand on top of your head, and now lighten your hand, and think about your head floating up towards the ceiling, slightly in front of you.

You can also do all of this while lying on the floor.

Experiment  – lengthening upwards from our base
Place the fingers of one hand on the pubic bone – well below your belly button and just above your genitalia (a little below the knicker line on this anorexic model).

Thought bubble - Think about lengthening up from here to your forehead, but don’t allow your ribs to project forward as you do it.

Now take your hand up about a handspan, and find the point where the lower ribs meet (in the centre of the model’s black top).

Thought bubble - Now ask for length up from the pubic bone to where the lower ribs meet, and from there up to the forehead. Allow your head to float up towards the ceiling, slightly in front of you.

Freeing up
If you are concerned about your core strength, and you go to a pilates class, choose the teacher carefully – and above all read my blog posts and apply the principles that ensure you free up rather than contract, especially in your neck area.

If you'd like to find out more about how to sit easily without slumping, why not contact me for an introductory Alexander lesson.

  • Hodges PW, Richardson CA. (1996) Inefficient muscular stabilization of the lumbar spine associated with low back pain. Spine. 21:2640–2650
  • Jenkins SC, Soutar SA, Moxham J (1988) The Effects of Posture on Lung Volumes in Normal Subjects and in Patients Pre- and Post-coronary Artery Surgery. Physiotherapy. Vol.74, Issue 10, Pages 492-496.
  • Lin F, Parthasarathy S, Taylor SJ, Pucci D, Hendrix RW, Makhsous M (2006) Effect of Different Sitting Postures on Lung Capacity, Expiratory Flow, and Lumbar Lordosis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Vol.87, Issue 4.  Pages 504-509
  • Sapsford RR, Richardson CA, Maher CF, Hodges PW. (2008) Pelvic floor muscle activity in different sitting postures in continent and incontinent women. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Volume 89, Issue 9. Pp.1741-1747, September 2008. Available online

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