Leave the couch to the potatoes...


Leave the couch to the potatoes...

Elvis - Our much missed, couch loving Labrador

As the months roll by and we’re still all stuck at home, I've noticed my clinic is seeing more clients with back pain, neck pain and headaches. Many cases are relatively straightforward problems but are exacerbated by the long and continuous hours sat at the home “office” - be it on a kitchen bench, stool, office chair, sofa, or even propped up in bed and working off laptops, tablets, multiple screens, or phones.

Apart from those lucky enough to have a sit-stand desk, most of us are sitting for too long in one position and not getting up or moving enough.

Research tells us that daily sitting on the ground, frequently moving, and getting up and down from the floor can help with flexibility, strength, mobility, bowel function, and improve longevity.

So, whilst I appreciate that zoom calls, meetings, and the working day cannot usually take place whilst walking around or lying on the floor, I can persuade you to take your breaks and especially any evening and relaxation time sitting or lying down on the floor.

Of an evening, ditch the sofa and put some cushions, a mat or rug on the floor. Start by lying on your back, support your head, neck and shoulders with pillows and try a large pillow under your knees and thighs. Close your eyes, lie still for 5 mins and focus on gentle breathing; in through the nose, out through the mouth. Once you are relaxed you can start to physically move into postures that allow you to stretch and feel good. Pelvic tilts, knees to the chest, hip rotations, arm rotations ... there are no rules.

You can also lie on your front and follow a simple routine of yoga poses such as the child’s pose, cat, cow, downward dog, and reverse. Focus on those parts of the body that have built up tension during the day. Then try sitting postures and explore how you feel comfortable. I'm always amazed how tight and stiff I feel at the start and how addictive the movement and stretching is once I get going.

If your joints are stiff and achey or you suffer from hip or knee pain, you can stay semi-reclined with pillows to support you while you watch the TV or read a book, etc.

Fellow osteopath Emma has this great video on her website running through some different seating postures - some really excellent advice.

Alternatively, test out several different seating options, crossed legs, squat,

kneeling, etc but do make sure you keep changing positions and use blocks,

kneeling, etc but do make sure you keep changing positions and use blocks, cushions, or a wall to support you as necessary. As many of you may know, I had an anterior hip replacement last year (following osteoarthritis due to an old horse-riding accident). I'm not so comfortable sitting crossed legged for long but if I use an air cushion, such as the SitActive cushion or similar - pictured below. It feels great and I can keep moving around and altering my posture.

SitActive Pro - Active Posture cushion


The SitActive cushion also helps me adopt the primal postures which are talked about by another fellow NZ osteopath, Phillip Beech. He tells us all to get on the floor and adopt some simple postures every day to help keep our bodies healthy and flexible. View a video showing these incorporated into a pilates routine, which is a great addition a couple of times a week.

Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist and creator of the Gokhale
Method recommends we imagine we (still) have a tail. Visualising it behind
us as we walk, sit and stand encourages us to elongate our spine and roll our pelvis. This can be a really good way to help children to understand the process too.
Watch her Ted Talk.

It seems that throughout history, in the Western World, the chair has become associated with status and wealth.Yet many civilisations maintain their ground seated postures and recognise the benefits. Sedentary kneeling, i.e. sitting on the heels with the knees on the floor, is practiced by Japanese, Koreans, and Eurasians and also used by Muslims at prayer. Take a leaf out of the Okinawan's lifestyle. These happy, fit and healthy Japanese are recognised for their excellent genes, longevity, healthy diet and lifestyle - making Okinawa one of only 5 ‘blue zones‘ in the world. Much of their fitness, improved bone density and flexibility can be attributed to the fact that they get up from and sit down on the floor tens to hundreds of times a day. Take a read about their lifestyle.


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