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To Your Health

The Slouch

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02/01/2010 - Hello Again. I hope you enjoyed your holidays. I envisioned many of you slouching comfortably (yes, I am correct -- slouching) in front of the TV enjoying your "must see" games and shows. In fact, our new topic is going to be our love of the "slouch" as well as its affect on our spine.

I am going to try to narrow our classification of slouching into two types in an attempt to make it easy. Let's consider looking at a person from the front and looking at a person from the side. The view from the side is our most common, recognizable form, a person is usually sitting practically on their lower back rather than their "buns" (See figure 1). It's the posture that elicits the following response from our parents or teachers: "Sit up straight in your chair, quit slouching!".

The second type of slouching is viewed by looking directly at the person who will sit off to one side. An example of this would be those that pull their legs up on the chair, sofa or couch leaning on an arm on the opposite side (See figure 2). Or the killer, one who will sit with one leg over the arm of a chair leaning to the opposite side and slouch down. Ouch!

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Why do we do this? There's plenty of blame to go around. Some chairs and sofas seem to promote this with their design and with the padding and upholstery. Some are designed with proper support, fitting for an average size human (whatever that is). I have had patients tell me that they have to sit certain ways because they're too small and their feet don't touch the floor. Or that the top cushion pushes their head forward and they have to slide down. But the person could also be blamed for not noticing this when they make their purchase. "It looked pretty"; "It goes with the rest of the decor in the room"; "It felt fine when I sat in it at the showroom" are common statements patients have made to me when we are discussing their problems. I told them that their eyes may have thought it was good idea but their spine is saying, "Uh-oh, he hasn't sat through a whole game in that chair."

I also have been told by individuals that they have been sitting like this for years and it never hurt, so why am I correcting their habits? Well the most important thing we need to remember is that we are adaptive creatures. Our bodies will compensate for most stupid things we do, but we will get our come-uppance as we get older. And when we do, sometimes it is too late. Also, this slouch is not limited to the living room; it also applies to sitting while driving or riding in a car.

I want you to evaluate yourselves in your sitting postures these next few weeks at home and in the car. Please even evaluate your family. Don't nag at them. First let's learn what we are doing and what the consequences are and why we want to change. We will go over how this affects our spine and nervous system and what long term problems slouching causes. I won't recommend furniture changes but I recommend paying close attention if you have a history of back problems including surgeries. Until next time, See ya!

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