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To Your Health

The Slouch-Addendum

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05/01/2010 - Well, as I promised, I will address some items regarding this series of articles we just completed.

It has been brought to my attention that some individuals have been sitting on a leg for as long as they can remember even to the point of doing it at work. The question is, is this bad? Yes, as I mentioned before, the body is adaptive and can tolerate this, but the compensation will take it's toll overtime. I have seen patients' spines bend and twist to accommodate such a posture. This results in abnormal loading on the spine; also muscle will change length and this can create problems, such as sciatica.

Some ladies have commented it's the only way they can sit because their legs cannot touch the floor due to their being short. Sympathetically I understand their problem, but unfortunately I think the solution is harder. Trying to find furniture that will accommodate the smaller individual is difficult. Any person in the five foot range or below is particularly challenged and the best suggestion I can come up with, besides getting a custom made chair or sofa, would be to sit all the way back and place your feet on a coffee table or ottoman. Again, not the best, but it will do.

How about reading? Curling up in a chair to read may be pleasant, but same problems arise. A solution that you may try is, again, sit all the way back make sure you have some support for the lower back, like a pillow. Place your feet on your coffee table or ottoman with knees bent, put a thick pillow on your lap and place the your book on the pillow. This presents a two-fold response: (1) It prevents creating large abnormal stress loads to the spine. (2) It keeps the neck from bending too far forward thus reducing tension on the neck and shoulders.

The last question I received regarding slouching did not have anything to do with sitting. It had to do with standing. Although I will not go into great detail, the question was regarding standing on one leg or more accurately putting more weight on one leg. I think what the individual was asking is, "How much effect can this have on the spine?" After 25 years of looking at postures and x-rays I am amazed at what the human body can do. Two individuals can appear to be standing the same way but their spines can be different. Same theory occurs -- our bodies adapt and will over time create a posture that has accommodated this habit. These postures can be very difficult to correct and I have seen this cause very big problems for the individual later in life. Our bodies, when we stand, will normally use very little energy to maintain an upright stance thanks to proper structure and muscle tone. Once those items have been compromised the body can develop symptoms associated with loss of integrity. If you have a young child that has a habit of standing with more weight on one leg (teens are most common) they need to be educated about the consequences of such a habit.

This subject could be explored some more if you wish at another time (contact the editor) and we can go into even further detai1. I hope this series on slouching benefited you. I enjoyed discussing it with my patients, but gotta go. Until next time. See ya!

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Chris Walsh


Wyoming Medical Center

Grapevine Design and Secretarial
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