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Pain and Posture: The Basics

Pain and Posture: The Basics

Pain and Posture: The Basics

    Old “Doc” Plume, the local hardware store owner, who was known for his miraculous cures for arthritis, had a long line of “patients” waiting outside the door when a little old lady, completely bent over, shuffled in slowly, leaning on her cane.  When her turn came, she went into the back room of the store and, amazingly, emerged within half an hour, walking completely erect with her head held high.  A woman waiting in the line said, “It’s a miracle! You walked in bent in half and now you’re walking erect.   What did Doc do?”  She answered, “He gave me a longer cane.”

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      It’s funny; most of the people with bad posture or pain syndrome I run into want to know a miracle exercise that will cure their dysfunction.  Sure, exercise can help and be a big part of a program designed to deal with pain and posture.  But more often than not, it is the little things in our everyday lives that could use some adjusting.  With that, here is a short list of activities to be mindful of.

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      Driving: Do you slouch, lean to one side more than the other?  Maybe you keep one hand high on the steering wheel and the other low, causing you to shrug one shoulder more than the other.  The point: try to shift and change positions often if you spend lots of time in the car.  The best position will always be hands at 10 and 2.  And holding your back tall and flat against the seat.

      Desk: You should know by now that posture at the desk is important.  You’re in this position for several hours at a time and it can have BIG repercussions on your health.  Get up often and be aware of any favoritism to any particular positions you might find yourself in.  Reaching and twisting from a seated position is a big no-no.  Try to organize your desk to be more spine friendly by putting often-used folders and materials within arm’s reach.

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      Sleeping: Our sleep posture is one of the most overlooked aspects of our life.  You spend 8 hours (hopefully) a night in either one or various positions that could have a large impact on your posture during the day.  Do you pile the pillows high?  This leads to excess stretching of the extensors in the neck, possibly contributing to a forward head posture.  Do you pull the bed sheets tight over your feet, pulling your toes into a pointed position?  This can lead to limited ankle mobility, which then affects your entire body mechanics, from walking to sitting.  Do you sleep on your side with one leg bent and across your body?  This can lead to an imbalance between your left and right spinal erectors, which then could be contributing to your back pain.  This is can be even worse if you’re a woman with generous hips.  Paranoid yet?  I didn’t even mention how sleeping on your stomach can contribute to an excessive lordodic curve ,which then may lead to extra compressive forces for your lumbar spine to handle.  So which is the best position to sleep in?  On your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees and your head resting on a single pillow.  Or if you prefer, on your back with a pillow under your knees, sheets loose, and again, a single pillow for the head.

      The point I’m trying to drive home here is that we need to pay more attention to our bodies when they’re NOT in motion.  It’s the little things like these that add up and contribute to a life of constant and nagging pains.  Practice a technique known as mindfulness.  Every once in awhile turn your attention inwards and ask yourself; have I been in this position for too long?  Could I do something to make my current posture or situation more comfortable and back friendly?  Before you know it, the pain that once prevented you from doing normal everyday tasks will have disappeared and become a thing of the past.

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

      This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

      The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

      The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

      Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

      Curiosity

      Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

      People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

      Patience

      Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

      When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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      Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

      A Feeling for Connectedness

      This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

      A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

      The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

      How to Self-Taught Effectively

      With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

      1. Research

      Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

      Learning the Basics

      Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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      Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

      What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

      Hitting the Books

      Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

      Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

      Long-Term Reference

      While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

      My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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      2. Practice

      Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

      A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

      Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

      Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

      3. Network

      One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

      These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

      Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

      Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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      4. Schedule

      For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

      Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

      Final Thoughts

      In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

      If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

      At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

      More About Self-Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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