A few weeks ago I cut out a comic strip from the paper. It shows a farmer’s wife standing in front of her cow. The wide-eyed cow is suspended on a forklift, legs dangling in the air, udder just below the woman’s shoulder height. The woman is standing up, comfortably milking the cow. The farmer looks on, eyebrows raised. “Stop staring”, she says, “This is way better for my back…”
Think about your daily routine. What types of objects do you interact with regularly? And how do you interact with those objects? Very often you contort yourself to fit a situation when if you stop to think for a moment, you can easily adjust the situation to better suit your body.
Here are just a few examples to get you started:
If folding laundry on your bed bothers your back because it’s too low, why not fold it on a clean countertop in the kitchen that’s up a bit higher?
Do you use a laptop as your main computer? Laptops are great because they’re portable. But the screen will be way too low for your head and neck if you use it for long periods. Invest in a wireless keyboard and mouse so you can set the laptop on a stack of books (or invest in a laptop stand like the one pictured above) and the screen will be at a comfortable height for you.
Are you constantly hunching in toward your computer screen, even if it’s at a good height? If it’s because you can’t see clearly, try increasing the font size under settings on your computer. Or if that doesn’t work, invest in a pair of computer glasses designed specifically for the distance you sit from your screen. That way you can leave your head resting on top of your spine and see the screen instead of scrunching your body in to see.
Hate bending over to scrub those heavy pots in the kitchen sink? I do. It’s especially bad when it’s one of those extra deep sinks. And if there’s a lot of scrubbing to do, you may have to stay bent over for quite some time. Why not bring the pot up on the countertop, fill it with soap and water, let it soak for a bit—so you won’t have to scrub as much—and then work on it there?
I talked a bit about the laptop above but you probably do a lot of your reading on your phone or tablet. These differ from the laptop in one significant way. The screen usually lies flat. And that’s a big problem.
Remember you have a joint between the spine and the skull (way high up between your ears) that allows you to nod your head and look down a bit from. That joint doesn’t allow enough movement to look at something flat on the table or on your lap. What happens is that as your eyes lower your body follows and you end up bending the whole spine forward. And voila you’re a contortionist!
Try this experiment:
Take your smartphone. Alternatively, a piece of paper with some text on it will do. Stand holding it at eye level and parallel to your face. Place your free hand gently on the base of your neck (for most of us the C7 vertebra sticks out a bit more there). Slowly lower the paper and angle it a bit until it is at about your belly button and parallel to the ground.
Notice that initially, you can look down with your eyes a bit without needing to move your head at all. To look down further without straining your eyes, you can allow your head to nod forward slightly way high up between the ears—still without bending the spine at the base of the neck. At some point, you will start to bend at the base of the neck to continue reading. This is a point where you have lowered your reading material too far and once again you’ve become a contortionist.
The ideal reading angle will differ from person to person. 60 degrees from the horizontal give or take is often given as the ideal. If you wear bifocals it will be a bit lower as you must look through the bottom part of your glasses to read.
Get a cover for your tablet that folds to hold it at a good angle for reading or use a book stand. There are stands as well for smartphones. A smart investment but I rarely see them being used.
How you relate to objects affects your posture. Practice more body-conscious living by prioritizing what you do with your head and neck when you interact with objects. What can you do in any given situation to make things easier on your body?
Start by simply asking the question more often. I think you’ll surprise yourself with how many creative solutions you can come up with. Just like the farmer’s wife did. If you have any you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.