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Easy Ways to Improve Your Posture

If you've been working at a desk or are perpetually attached to your phone, you may have noticed your posture has become slouched.

You may also find yourself straightening and stretching your back throughout the day to ease some of the pain and stiffness you feel.

Are there any certain exercises people could do to maintain good posture?

  • Stretch your wrists
  • Resistance bands
  • Yoga
  • Gardening

Dr. O. Alton Barron joins Dr. Mike to discuss how bad posture affects your health, as well as certain exercises you can do to help straighten out your back.
Easy Ways to Improve Your Posture
Featured Speaker:
Dr. O Alton BarronDr. O. Alton Barron is the assistant clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at Icahn Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, a senior attending physician in the department of orthopedic surgery at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center and an attending hand surgeon at C.V. Starr Hand Surgery Center at Roosevelt Hospital, the longest running hand surgery center in the U.S.

Dr. Barron is also a consultant for CBS, has written for the New York Times, and has been on top TV outlets like the CBS Morning Show and recently The Doctors.
Transcription:

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: March 31, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Healthy Talk with Dr. Michael Smith, MD. And now, here's the country doctor with the city education, Dr. Mike:

DR MIKE: My guest is Dr. Alton Barron. He is the senior attending physician at the Department of Orthopedic surgery at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center. He actually is a hand surgeon at the longest running hand surgery center in the United States. That's the C.V. Starr Hand Surgery Center at Roosevelt Hospital. Dr. Barron, welcome to Healthy Talk.

DR BARRON: Thank you so much, Mike.

DR MIKE: Before we continue with this talking about texting and posture, you just wrote a book, right? With your wife? Why don't you tell me about that briefly?

DR BARRON: Yes. I mean, that was an incorporation, quickly, about both her life and treating patients from a psychiatric perspective and she's a creative expert and it's her baby, but then, a big portion of it devoted to the hands and how important those are—our two hands—when we are engaged in meaningful activities, to our mental, cognitive, our psychological, even our economic well-being, because as I mentioned previously, our hands are so directly linked to our brains.

DR MIKE: That's very interesting. What's the title of the book?

DR BARRON: It's The Creativity Cure.

DR MIKE: And, you can find this at TheCreativitycure.com, I assume. Right?

DR BARRON: Yes, and it's on Barns and Noble and Amazon, etc.

DR MIKE: Well, let's go back. I have one more question about the texting and typing and then we're going to get into poor posture. I'm laughing at myself because as I just said that, I'm like leaning over with really bad posture right now.

DR BARRON: Right.

DR MIKE: So, we'll get that. Obviously, I need your help, but okay. So, everybody's texting and typing, right? We know that there can be some long-term issues with it, but what are we supposed to do? I mean, we can't just stop texting and typing. Is there something? Are there wrist things we can do? Exercises? I mean, what can you help me with here?

DR BARRON: Yes. Okay. Simple. Simple. Simple. First of all, when you're doing this day in and day out, it's very important to stretch and just do those simple stretches where you have your elbows straight out in front of you and you're pulling your wrist back and forward in both directions, feeling those forearm muscles stretch. They need to be. They've been contracted and overused, overused, overused.

They need to be stretched back up. It's no different than if you're a runner and stretching your hamstrings. So, simple stretching maneuvers are very good. It takes 30 seconds or 15 seconds to do it 10 times a day while you're working. Shake your hands out like you're shaking a wet rag. Then, secondly is, balancing the amount you do with real exercise. Real hand use—not this light texting, touching, typing, but real upper extremity exercises. There are bands that you can pull on and stretch, any sort of workouts on these ergonomic machines. If you don't have machines, anything. Throwing a baseball.

Anything you want to do. Gardening. Using a chainsaw. I mean, anything you might want to do is going to be good for you because it's different and it actually uses your muscles in a more vigorous way to keep them conditioned.

DR MIKE: That's all good. So, as you were saying that, I was doing the stretch, you know? So, my hands straight out and I was just kind of pulling back on my fingers.

DR BARRON: Yes.

DR MIKE: Pulling down on them.

DR BARRON: Yes.

DR MIKE: You can really feel that in your forearm and stuff, right?

DR BARRON: Yes.

DR MIKE: I mean, that's a good stretch.

DR BARRON: Yes.

DR MIKE: Well, let's move the conversation now into posture, specifically poor posture. Is this becoming worse for us now that we're sitting at desks and offices all day long? I mean, what percent of people do you think really have poor posture?

DR BARRON: I would say 85%. Yeah.

DR MIKE: That's high. That's high.

DR BARRON: It's an epidemic. It's an epidemic and it's worsened by our super saturation and obsession with electronic devices.

DR MIKE: Yeah. And, it's funny that you say that because I mean, I'm sitting at my desk right now. I'm going to be here all day long.

DR BARRON: Yes. So am I.

DR MIKE: I know I try to get up, stand up, walk a little bit, do some stretching. So, what types of activities or habits can cause people to get into these bad postures? Obviously, you're just sitting playing with technology, but what other things that we do that we don't realize that's leading to poor posture?

DR BARRON: I think we don't' think about our phones as technology, but the smartphones are even worse because even though we're standing up, because they're so close to our body, we keep them close. It's not as if we're holding them up in the air like taking a selfie, but we have them right nestled to our body, so our heads are bent forward, our neck muscles are strained, our shoulders are protracted into this kind of hunched over position as we're protecting these and protecting what we're texting. You'll see a group of people get into an elevator and all 7 or 8 of them will be hunched over typing.

DR MIKE: Right. That's true. Yes.

DR BARRON: So, this is a ubiquitous problem and it's very, very important that we address it.

DR MIKE: Dr. Barron, so okay. I have my smartphone in my hand right now. Does that mean I should be extending my arm and looking at it that way?

DR BARRON: No. You try to pull it up higher so your head doesn't have to tilt down so far and a little further away from your body. Not at a selfie photo, but just a foot away so that you're looking more down just with eyesight. Without having to tilt your head down and actively pulling your shoulders back, right? And trying to retract them. I tell people to try to crack and egg between your shoulder blades. That's that true good posture that you'll see in people who are in the military and people who are ballet dancers or other types of ballroom dancing and so forth. Those are the two activities and lifestyles that really promote good posture.

DR MIKE: Okay. So, what are the long-term effects? I'm worried about myself, but I'm also worried about, I mean, I just watch a lot of the kids today.

DR BARRON: Oh, right. Absolutely.

DR MIKE: Watching them doing their homework. I mean, they're slumped over a computer. I mean, what are the long-term effects of this?

DR BARRON: Right. I think there are even economic effects which I'll mention. First of all, when you have chronic neck pain, you're more at risk for occipital headaches. You're more at risk for shoulder pain. You're stretching the nerves that come out of your neck and go to your arms, so you're more at risk for compressive neuropathies, which are things like carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome, so you're more at risk for these things, very clearly. Then, also, when we're slumped over, when we're meeting the world this way, we're not conveying self-esteem, we're not conveying confidence. We're not going to do well in job interviews. We're not going to get that job between the person who walks in bright and shining and standing up straight and open and not hunched over. I mean, these are very real things that are not discussed enough in terms of the impact on our interaction with the world.

DR MIKE: You know, what's becoming popular where I work at Life Extension? We have probably more health conscious employees than your average place and some of our employees are using, I guess you'd just call them stand up desks where they can lift up the desk. They can lift everything up and they can stand for a while, then they can put it back down and sit. Is that maybe what we need to be using in offices more?

DR BARRON: Yes. I'm so glad you mentioned that. I was going to mention that eventually. That is absolutely correct. If you're standing up, you're maintaining better posture. Your back is arched. It's a much different ergonomic setup and it's very useful and critically important that more of us use those, especially if we are under more stress. Remember, we're also burning calories standing up much more so than if we're sitting down. So, it's good just for general health and weight loss and so forth. So, it's absolutely wonderful and there should be much more of that going on.

DR MIKE: How important is it? Because a lot of my listeners do spend a lot of time in an office setting. How important is it just to get up and stretch and walk and just kind of be active throughout your day. Is that something you do?

DR BARRON: Absolutely. I mean, I'm up and down because I sit to examine many patients, but I'm up and walking down the halls room to room plus walking to the OR. I stand up most of the time in the operating room, so, I mean, I'm lucky that way. I'm forced to do that whether I want to or not. But, many people are not and you do have to force yourself. I even tell patients of mine to put a little plaque on your desk and say, "Get Up." Get up and walk around. I mean, I actually tell them that. I also say, you know, do those little postural exercises that will help.

DR MIKE: Okay. That's all. Dr. Barron, what a great guest. I really like all the information you presented today. The website is TheCreativeCure.com. He also has a book with his wife by the same title, The Creative Cure. Go check it out.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.