Date
6 December 2016
Office workers face a higher risk of developing kyphosis as they often keep their head bent low while reading books and documents. Photo: Bloomberg
Office workers face a higher risk of developing kyphosis as they often keep their head bent low while reading books and documents. Photo: Bloomberg

Wrong posture could lead to serious spinal condition

Kyphosis, or excessive outward curvature of the spine, results in a hunchback posture with the top of the back appearing more rounded than normal.

People usually think the condition happens mostly to children because they carry heavy school bags or walk in a forward-leaning position with hunched shoulders.

However, schoolchildren are not the only victims. Office workers, especially those who are required to work in front of the computer for long hours, are also liable to develop this condition.

People who do not sit properly for years may develop a hunchback, which could lead to spinal dislocation or early degeneration, slipped disc, bone spurs, etc.

Symptoms include pain in the neck and shoulders, and numbness of the arms.

Kyphosis usually results from poor posture, and this is known as postural kyphosis.

Students and office workers often keep their head bent low while reading books and documents or staring at a digital screen.

In the long run such a habit causes muscles, especially those in the back, to be pulled or overstretched.

Teenage girls who feel embarrassed about their breast development sometimes form the habit of slumping back in the seat, while women who wear the wrong bra size or high-heeled shoes have a tendency to let their head and shoulders lean forward too much. 

Such habits may lead to kyphosis.

You can check your posture by doing this simple test. First, stand upright and look forward.

Keep the back of your head, your upper back and butt against the wall, and while in that position, get your palm into the gap between the wall and your lower back.

If the space is just about right to allow your palm to move in, you probably do not have a hunchback posture.

But if the gap is wider than your palm, or if you have to struggle to keep your head against the wall, you might have some degree of wrong posture.

The first thing to correct a hunchback is to always have the right posture.

When seated, your back should be pressed against the backrest of the chair while keeping the head and body straight with shoulders relaxed.

Keep your elbows at 90 degrees and close to the sides and both feet should rest flat on the floor.

Use a reading stand whenever possible and choose a height-adjustable chair or desk so that the height of the computer screen is in line with your eyes.

On top of maintaining a good posture, you should regularly do stretching exercises to strengthen the muscles at the back.

Certain sports such as swimming, running and various ball games involving lots of standing could improve postures and strengthen the muscles that provide body support.

Wearing a back brace for about an hour a day could also help maintain a correct posture and prevent the neck and shoulder muscles from being overstretched.

If you use a back brace, you need to have a check-up after every three months.

If there is spinal dislocation or any other adverse condition, you should consult an expert for corrective measures or medical treatment.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 18.

Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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