Article: I'll Tell You What is Causing Pain for Almost Everyone in the Western World

Manual LaborerIf you're one of the millions of knowledge workers slaving away in your cubicle all day, you deserve to work pain free. This article will help you on your way.

Muscles Get Tired, Bones Don't.

There are two ways human beings can hold themselves. You can slouch, using the large muscles to hold yourself into something that approximates an upright posture. This is what nearly everyone over the age of four in the Western World does. This posture became popular among flappers in the 1920's and became an enduring fashion. Unfortunately, it compresses the lungs and causes muscles and tendons to work constantly and in a way they weren't designed to. This causes pain and injury.
The other way to sit or stand upright is to balance on your bones. You balance your head on top of your neck and your shoulders over your hips. In this posture, you do not use your muscles to hold yourself up; you merely use them to make slight balance adjustments.

Good posture
All children under the age of four use an upright posture. Because their heads are so large in relation to their bodies, they physically do not have the strength to slouch; they have to balance upright. The upright posture is the natural human posture. The Masai, many people in so-called primitive cultures, gymnasts (but only when they're actually doing exercises) and anyone who carries rocks on their heads for a living, have an upright posture. Do a Google image search to see examples of good posture. It's important to look at good examples of posture; we're very influenced by other humans and tend to copy them unconsciously.

How to Stand Straight

Stand up. Stick your butt out; notice how that changes your entire alignment. Stick out your chest and fill up your lungs. Now tuck in your chin so that your skull is balanced on your spine. Roll your shoulders back until your feel them sort of "hook" onto your back. There you go. Don't expect to be able to hold that posture for more than a couple minutes at a first. Some of your big muscles are too tight right now and some of your little muscles are too weak. You'll get there.

Believe in GoodnessBut first, a quality check on that posture. Find a wall that forms a corner that juts out. Now put your feet on either side of the corner and press the bony part of the spine above your butt into the edge of the wall. If you're standing straight, the wall will also touch you between and above the shoulder blades and on the back of the head. Roll your shoulders. If your shoulders are in alignment, then your palms will face your body. If your shoulders are out of alignment, your palms will face behind you.

How to Sit Straight

Sit in a chair, sticking your butt out. Stretch your arms and face to the ceiling. Now, without moving your neck, turn your face forward. Next, without moving your shoulders, lower your arms. Lean your torso forward backward and feel for the angle where your body is balanced without effort. Try to maintain that posture. As you type, keep your shoulders, elbow and hipbone into as close to a vertical line as possible.

About Tendonitis

If you have tendonitis, improved posture might not be enough to correct it. Google "Tyler Twist," buy the FlexBar and do the simple exercises as described by the New York Times. It's proven to help or cure Tennis Elbow. A similar exercise, the "Reverse Tyler Twist" might help Golfer's Elbow.

Singing Masai
Our bodies are tough--they're designed to do heavy labor, to walk around all day, to cart around children, even to carry stones on our heads. They're definitely capable of doing little clickety-clicks with the keyboard all day long if we don't abuse them with unnatural posture. It's our human birthright to go about upright and without pain. So stand and sit tall!
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  1. Thanks for the article - if possible, pictures of the postures you want us to achieve would be hugely beneficial.

  2. This posture became popular among flappers in the 1920's...

    Ok, that line caught me by surprise. I'm not saying I think you're wrong, but is there a source for that? At the very least, I feel that deserves a picture of a slouching flapper!

  3. Cool examples. I've never met a Brazilian, I don't think, but I immediately thought of the stately women with all those feathers on their heads: shoulders back, tits out, beaming smiles. Perfect posture. Then I thought of the flappers: of course, to appear flat-chested, you'd have to slouch. And the dancing moves of the jazz age only encouraged that.

  4. Hi there, thanks for your comments.

    arifb and AndrewO: Here's another post that shows examples of Victorian vs. Flapper posture. We're trying for the upright Victorian posture.

    AndrewO: My source for saying that the slouch became fashionable is Esther Gokhale in her book 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back. I should have mentioned that in the post.

    Here's a link to her book. Great book.

    Zeelot--one definition of unconscious is "occurring in the absence of conscious awareness or thought" so I'm gonna leave the word as is. Thanks for commenting, though!

  5. Also, sitting in a chair for 40-60 hours a week and facing an artificial light display head-on is hardly natural or safe. As a coder and tech, (I know a person) can get so absorbed in his work he also forgets to stand up, stretch, and look around every hour or so, for at least five minutes. Or more. I've arranged my workspace so I can even stand and type for any length of time.

  6. Brazilians? What? Have you ever been to any place where Brazilians work with computers? It's a sloucherfest. I work from home and guess what... I'm slouching! I mean, not right after reading this! Most people I know here slouch as well. This really comes in handy. Thanks a bunch!

  7. Anonymous said: "stately women with all those feathers on their heads: shoulders back, tits out, beaming smiles"

    Brazilian women who do the samba with feathers on their heads during Carnival are the same ones slouching over work when all that is said and done, believe me. Usually those things they carry on their heads and the fact they're wearing very high heels give them temporarily an upright posture, otherwise they'd keel over!

  8. Thank you, Silvia. 'Guess I was wrong. Serves me right for generalizing after looking at photos. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Really need to fix my posture.. thanks for this!

  10. Thanks for this. I keep coming back and rereading it to help me stand up straight. I normally can do it for only 30 min. at a time but I started at only 5 min. at a time.

  11. Thanks, Anonymous. I'm so glad it's helping.