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Straight to the Top

Sit up straight to ensure success, says corrective exercise expert and former professional rugby player Jim Thorp.

Research suggests poor posture through deskbound jobs can cause severe back pain and trigger higher levels of stress and anxiety, leading to absence from work.

Back pain caused by bad posture affects around 70 per cent of the nation's workforce and is now the second most common complaint among employees visiting their company's human resources department.

With compelling evidence to indicate individuals who sit for more than four hours a day are at greater risk of obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease, I am urging business owners to raise awareness of posture.

The office environment can be blamed for many of the health issues people face, from 'phone-cradle neck' to knee pain.

Few people realise that poor posture can also be a contributing factor of knee pain, poor bladder control and even depression. With posture the position from which movement begins and ends, if you start in the wrong place you either perform a good movement pattern that keeps the joint in the wrong place - because that's where you started - or you perform a faulty movement pattern to get you into a better position. Neither is good for you.

All movement creates wear and tear on the joints, ligaments and tendons but poor posture and faulty movement patterns create uneven deterioration in places where the body finds it hard to recover. Over time this creates inflammation, injury, pain and weakness.

Thanks in part to our more sedentary lifestyles and the reduction in physical labour for many, problems with the back often manifest themselves through an increased curve in the upper back, a forward head posture, rounded shoulders and a flat lower back.

There are simple steps individuals can take to help improve the effects of poor posture, specifically if the back is where pain and discomfort is emanating from:

• Stretch it out - Avoid spending most of the working day hunched over a computer; try to get up a few moments every 20 minutes to stretch, stand up or walk round the office and stand each time you answer the phone.

• Sit up straight - When working at your desk, sit up with good, tall posture but let your shoulders drop and keep them relaxed. It may take a while to get right but is worth it. Ensuring your work station is set up for good posture will help you to avoid slouching.

• Support your spine - Help your spine by building strength in your back extensors, neck flexors, pelvic muscles and side muscles. Increasing endurance in the spine and trunk muscle groups is essential as it allows us to stand for long periods without suffering back pain.

• Lift your weight - Implementing weight-bearing exercises into your routine can help prevent bone-thinning through osteoporosis, known to be caused by inactivity. People who walk regularly tend to have better bone density in later life so take the stairs instead of the lift whenever possible or walk around the office to talk to your colleagues.

Jim Thorp is the clinical head, programme director and lead therapist at JT Ethos.

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