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Workers’ warning – slouching can reduce mental performance

Learning how to sit properly and taking “microbreaks” is vital when it comes to avoiding muscular imbalances.

The increased amount of hours spent sitting in front of a computer can cause forward head posture or slouching, which overloads the neck and spine.  According to Cape Town based chiropractor, Robert Delgado, for every two and a half centimetres that the head moves forward, an extra 4.5 kilograms in weight is placed on the neck. 

“This is why forward head posture can lead to chronic pain, numbness in the arms or legs, improper breathing and even reduced mental and physical performance,” he said.

Delgado said he had seen an increase in forward head posture and believed this was brought on by “our modern lifestyle, which is filled with physical, chemical and emotional stressors on a daily basis which can overload the nervous system thereby causing the spine to misalign and our posture to shift”. 

Research has shown that poor posture can also have a negative impact on a person’s breathing.  
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, “forward head posture can reduce the mobility of the thorax [chest], thereby having a negative effect on the respiration capabilities”. 

Postural misalignments can cause pain and discomfort. “It can also deprive the brain of its most vital nutrient – proprioception,” he said. “This deficiency can influence concentration, emotional well-being, immunity and hormone regulation and over time, it can drain our brains of energy.”

The Chiropractic Association of South Africa said learning how to sit properly and taking “microbreaks” is vital when it comes to avoiding muscular imbalances. According to the association’s website: “One of the most simple ‘microbreaks’ to perform is to stand up, reach overhead with both arms while pretending that you are climbing the rungs of a ladder with your hands. Perform this manoeuvre for 30 seconds every 30 minutes.”    

Delgado, who has a special interest in postural correction, said it is important to undergo a thorough chiropractic examination and exercise regularly to avoid neck and back pain caused by poor posture. “Through a series of chiropractic adjustments, spinal mechanics can be restored, thereby reducing the interference to the nervous system and allowing the body to return to its natural state of balance.”

Ina Skosana was a health reporter at Bhekisisa.