The ONS (Office for National Statistics) recently published an article highlighting that the number of people in the workplace on long-term sickness has increased by 25% since before the pandemic.
Why an increase in long-term sickness?
Since 2019 the increase in long-term sickness is approximately half a million people, taking the figure up to 2.5 million.
We do have an aging workforce; however in the nearly 3 years since the pandemic started the workforce has needed to deal with working from home and potentially long COVID.
The pandemic has clearly had an influence on long-term sick numbers. From the survey data, it emerged that back and neck problems are the second biggest cause of the increase in numbers; for some people, their problems have become chronic.
How has posture been affected?
Working from home has impacted the nation’s posture in several ways. Workers have spent hours working in unsuitable conditions – inappropriate desk/chair/computer set up at a desk, working from a couch or on the floor, working from a bed, propped up with pillows. The adhoc movement that many will have been used to – walking around the office for refreshments or meetings, the walk to catch the train or bus, getting out of the office at lunchtime to grab a sandwich, have all been replaced by hours of Zoom or Teams meetings.
It all adds up to people being more sedentary since March 2020, and when we move less our muscles weaken. When we started working from home our posture may have felt uncomfortable if we worked from a couch or bed. However, our bodies learn very quickly how we move most of the time. Our brain and nervous system then help us to move into this position more easily. And before we realise what is happening we have developed a forward head posture, rounded shoulders and “text neck”.
When our heads move forward our ears move forward too. When this happens we add approximately 10 pounds of weight to our neck vertebrae and shoulder and back muscles. Over time this becomes very tiring for the body and if not improved may turn into more severe back problems.
What is the solution to improving posture?
The first step is to ask someone to take a relaxed standing photo of you which will highlight how your posture might have changed.
After this changing your work setup, planning and sticking to times to move during the day, and finding activities that you enjoy that get you moving will help. Lack of movement is the real enemy of our body.
And if you’re not sure where to start, seek out a professional to help you. Get in touch[/button] If you would like to know more, click below.
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How often have you heard “Stand up straight”, “Don’t slump over your desk like that”, or “Stop slouching”? Possibly quite often when you were younger.
And although we probably didn’t appreciate it at the time, having a good posture is an important part of long-term health. Making sure that we hold our body in the right way, whether we are moving or still, can help us to maintain our health and avoid injuries.
What is posture?
Posture is how we hold our body, whether that’s moving (which is dynamic), or static (when we are still) which even includes the position we sleep in, and we need both to be working for us.
Some people believe that having good posture means standing up straight, tensing our back, and pushing our chest out. However, if we do this we are likely to affect the natural curves in our spine, which are there to help the spine absorb shock from our movements.
What does proper posture look like?
One way to find out if you have good posture is to ask someone to take a photo of you from the side. When you look at the photo you want to find that your ears, shoulders, and hips form a nice straight line down the side of your body.
Can posture affect my health?
Poor posture can be detrimental to a person’s health. It can affect the skeleton over time and cause neck, shoulder, and back pain. It can affect your balance and increase the risk of having a fall. Digestion may be impacted, and it can also be harder to breathe. This happens when the spine compresses the lungs and airways. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kyphosis/)
If you notice, for example, that a line from your ear meets your chest (rather than the top of your shoulder) then your head is too far forward – this may be the start of forward head posture (or text neck as it’s now often called). If this becomes the way you stand most frequently, you might notice tension or tightness in your neck muscles that seem to be getting worse. Every inch your head moves forward is the equivalent of gaining 10 pounds in weight due to the increased strain on the muscles of your neck and back. (ref: The Pain Relief Secret by Sarah Warren).
Can posture be improved?
Yes, it can, but as it took a long time to deteriorate it will take some time to improve. If you would like to know more about how to do this, click on the button below.
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With an aging global population we are hearing more frequently about older people being more sedentary, and as a result more likely to fall.
Falls are common and costly, especially amongst people 65 and older – but they are preventable and do not have to be an inevitable part of aging.
There are several causes that might contribute to someone falling – muscle weakness, poor balance, poor sight, certain medication or a mix of medications, hazards around home, or outside, and some specific medical conditions. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/falls-applying-all-our-health/falls-applying-all-our-health)
Low bone density (osteoporosis) contributes to fractures when people fall, and in the UK over 3million people suffer with this condition.
The costs, monetarily to the health sector, and personally to individuals is very high. In 2017/18 the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) reported that there were over 200k emergency hospital admissions related to falls among patients aged 65 and over 150k of the patients were over 80. In England, in 2013, falls were the ninth highest cause of “disability-adjusted life years”. It has been estimated that the total annual cost of fragility fractures to the UK has been estimated at £4.4billion.
What are the practical solutions to improve this?
Here are four things that people can do to prevent falls:
- Discuss any worries with the doctor and healthcare provider – ask them to review any medication as the way medicines work within our bodies can change as we age.
- Exercise, stay active and include single leg balances – with a bent leg. If you balance with a straight leg the skeleton supports the body, not the postural muscles. So if you brush your teeth standing on one leg, make sure the leg is bent.
- Have your eyes and feet checked regularly. Poor vision can increase chances of falling; poor footcare, sore feet, can impact how we walk (our gait) and make us more unbalanced.
- Review the safety in your home – make sure there is nothing that can be easily tripped over, get grab bars installed where they might help, and look at the lighting – can you clearly see where you are going?
Whatever activity you decide to do, start now – starting earlier helps. Just 10-15 minutes of practice per day can enable a significant improvement in someone’s confidence and enable them to remain active and independent – something we all want – I know I do.
At school we might have played hopscotch and games where we counted how often we could hop on one leg – when we were young if anyone asked us about our balance we would have thought they were mad.
Throughout our lives we’ve probably never given it a great deal of thought – that is until we start to lose our ability to balance.
Have you noticed if you stand on one leg to put your trousers or leggings on, or do you now sit down? What about putting your shoes on – how does that go?
Balance is not something that we are born with – it’s an ability that we learn over time – think about babies becoming toddlers and learning to walk and run without falling. And if we don’t use it, we lose it.
If we lose our ability to balance drugs or surgery won’t solve the problem for us – we may need to relearn the ability so that we have the confidence to move as we grow older.
Globally a lack of balance is being associated with serious health problems. Earlier in 2022, the British Journal of Sports Medicine shared the results of a decade-long study. It involved more than 1700 middle aged participants and concluded that those people who found that they could not balance were at a higher risk of dying early.
And people are unsure as to what causes us to lose our balance – it may be that we are becoming more sedentary in our lifestyles – unfortunately this is now starting at a younger age.
In 2021 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed figures that by 2030 16.4% (or 1.4 billion people) will be aged over 60 and that the populations of “more developed” countries will have aged most rapidly.
Research into how people can be helped has started in many areas around the world. In Australia there is a Falls Lab which aims to train people not to fall over by making them trip in a safety harness. Their approach is to enable brains to re-wire making people quicker and more responsive if they do trip or slip.
So what can you do?
This is an area where prevention is better than cure, and the more you do, the more you practice balancing and generally moving around the better the results – it does have a cumulative effect.
So however you decide to move more the key takeaway is to start before you need to – just 15 minutes a day practicing balance exercises is a great place to start and will improve your balance ability.
If you are interested in finding out more and are unsure where to start contact: