Posture and the Water Cooler

A few days ago I was getting a cup of water. “That looks uncomfortable,” commented a co-worker. What was going on?

Well, my employer provides us chilled, filtered water. The problem is that the filter tap is rather low to the ground. Why? I don’t know, but that’s not important. What is important is that it’s low, so to fill my cup I have to bend down.

Anyway, there I was, looking uncomfortable because I was:

                –  turned 45°

                – feet spread

                – knees bent

                – weight on my front leg

                – lower spine straight, and

                – my body tilted forward.

In short, I was modifying the old admonition to “lift with your legs, not with your back” to getting a cup of water.

Here’s the thing though; I wasn’t at all uncomfortable. It may have looked a little odd, but looking a little odd seems to me to be a small price to pay for a pain free back and good posture.

What does a simple every day task like filling a cup of water have to do with back pain and posture? On its own, not very much. In isolation, rounding my lower back for a few seconds to fill a cup of water is no big deal. But what if, instead of bending down for a cup of water (½, maybe 1 kg) I’m picking up my 5 year old (20 kg), or my 8 year old (30 kg)? How about a bag of water softener salt, or a shovel full of heavy, packed snow? These are also regular activities, and habitually bending from the lumbar spine to pick them up is to risk injury.

Proper posture isn’t just for sitting and standing. All day, every day, we ask our spines to do a tremendous amount of work. The least we can do is put it in a proper shape to minimize the risk of injury. And in doing so, maybe we can all help ourselves learn to StandUpRight.