If you are a physician or surgeon at the beginning of your medical career, the importance of healthy posture might be the last thing on your mind. But attending to it when you are going about your daily work is vital to making sure your body will be at peak health later. Here is a brief guide to help you know how to protect your body and enhance your long-term professional efficiency by practicing good posture.
What Is Good Posture?
In simple words, posture is how you hold your body while standing, sitting, or lying down. To adopt good posture, you need to train your body to stand, sit, lie, and walk in a way that imposes the least strain on muscles and ligaments while performing weight-bearing activities.
Main Types of Posture
In general, there are two types of posture:
Dynamic posture: It is how you hold your body while moving, including walking, running, pushing, pulling, squatting, balancing, or bending over to pick up something. Good dynamic posture aligns the body with various movements and minimizes the progressive strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It distributes the load among muscles and minimizes physical fatigue.
Static Posture: It is how you hold your body while not moving, like when you are standing, sitting, kneeling, or sleeping. It is also called “static loading,” as it involves physical exertion in which the same position is held throughout an activity. Static postures intensify the load on muscles and tendons compared to dynamic postures. They may decrease blood flow to the muscles and prevent the body from going through the natural process of restoration and repair.
Why Is Posture Important for Doctors?
Physicians, dentists, and surgeons are frequently subject to musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders. “MSK” is a broad term, including nearly 200 various conditions affecting the muscles, joints, and skeleton. According to Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA), over 10 million adults, and 12,000 children, have a musculoskeletal condition in England today.
Based on a study published in Medical Archives, 80% of Saudi surgeons surveyed reported MSK conditions because of performing surgery, with the neck and back most likely to suffer symptoms. Similarly, a review of 40 studies published in the Annals of Medicine and Surgery showed that out of 5,000 surgeons, 68% reported generalized pain, with the back, neck, and upper arms being the most frequently affected. However, to our surprise, both studies show higher associations of pain with minimally invasive surgery rather than open surgery.
These MSK conditions may have consequences beyond physical pain. In some cases, symptoms force surgeons into early retirement. In other cases, some MSK problems result in surgeons needing an operation themselves and taking extended leaves of absence. If they go undiagnosed and untreated, such posture issues can negatively impact your medical career.
How to Adopt a Good Posture
Even if you have failed to adopt a good posture for years, it is always possible to make improvements. “Better posture is often a matter of changing your activities and strengthening your muscles,” says Saloni Doshi, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Consciously practicing good posture can significantly benefit your overall health and help you postpone your retirement as a medical practitioner. Harvard Health states that holding your body the right way and maintaining the posture can help prevent pain, injury, and other health problems that might arise from your work conditions.
Good posture generally involves the following:
- Maintain your chin parallel to the floor, your shoulders even, and your spine lying in its natural curves when standing. Your arms must be at your sides with your elbows even and straight. Keep your hips and knees even, with your knees pointing straight ahead. You should also avoid shifting your weight unevenly from one foot to the other.
- While sitting, keep your chin in line with the floor, your shoulders, hips, and knees even, and your feet pointing straight ahead.
Although it may appear easy enough to follow the instructions, medical practitioners typically face a challenge maintaining good posture. According to Medical Archives, medical operations often require practitioners to adopt an awkward posture for long periods. It is generally caused by the enormous stress they deal with during operations. Besides, they need to perform frequent repetitive motions, which leads to MSK problems in the long term.
To reduce the risks of MSK issues, medical practitioners must learn how to implement ergonomic guidelines in the operating room. Fortunately, in recent years, robotic approaches to surgery have considerably reduced the number of incidents resulting in surgeons’ MSK disorders. Undoubtedly, further development of this type of surgical method can lead to a substantial future risk decline.
General Guidelines to Improve Your Posture
- Choose comfortable, supportive footwear.
- Try to adjust operation surfaces at a comfortable height.
- Take short breaks, mainly if you are sedentary for long periods. Change positions frequently, take a short stroll, and stretch lightly to lower the buildup of tension on your muscles.
- Avoid crossing your legs while sitting down. Keep your feet on the floor and relax your shoulders. It is essential to hold your elbows close to your body. Make sure the seating units support your back, thighs, and hips well.
How to Improve Your Posture off Work
Maintaining proper posture is not limited to your workplace. It is essential to keep these tips in mind while off duty. To prevent posture-related issues, take the following into account:
- Always scrutinize your posture: Try getting into the habit of observing and examining your posture while going about daily routines. The more consciously you recognize your improper posture, the better you can change it.
- Engage in regular physical activity: While any physical exercise is helpful, practices like yoga and tai chi can significantly cultivate good posture. Do exercises that strengthen the core muscles in your back and abdomen. Regular physical activity can also help you lose excess weight, which may cause postural problems by weakening stomach muscles. Excess weight can also result in back pain as it causes problems with the hips and spine.
- Practice posture-enhancing exercises: You can surf the web to find hundreds of guides for doing exercises that improve your posture. Such guides offer directions for performing poses like bridges, planks, hip flexor stretches, and back extension exercises. These exercises may help improve the most common posture problems.
Seek Help If You Are Experiencing Symptoms
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
By following the tips and instructions above, you can greatly enhance your posture, improve your health and prevent possible MSK problems. However, once symptoms are exhibited, a cure is vital. According to the report published by the Annals of Medicine and Surgery, nearly one-third of surgeons require treatment for their MSK complaints. So, if you are one of them, it is wise to seek the help of a professional soon to avoid further postural disorders.