Monday, 24 October 2011

The perils of poor posture

Perfecting my posture has never been high on my list of priorities. A book is for burying your nose in whilst curled up in front of a fire, not balancing precariously on your head.

If the book isn't enough add a glass for that little extra risk factor

During my formative years the occasional volley of "don't slouch, stand up straight" was fired off in my general direction, only to be deflected by the wall of indifference erected by youth. I'd stand how I wanted to thank you very much!

Needless to say that wall gets torn down by experience and I'm now wondering how many times in the coming years I'll catch myself thinking, 'if only I'd listened'. 

While I escaped any long lasting effects from my teenage slump, years of carrying heavy bags full of textbooks, paperwork and assorted paraphernalia have left me with one shoulder higher than the other. Not a problem in itself ( except when I want to wear a strappy dress) but in the last few years I have discovered that, combined with poor sewing posture, it has lead to all sorts of curious complications.

The do's and don'ts of sewing machines

Two years ago I was experiencing some discomfort when breathing, so I went to visit my GP ( okay , okay so I left it for six weeks before I got around to making an appointment). I'd had pleurisy the year before and was convinced it was rearing its head again. Several tests later proved that while my lung capacity was indeed impaired it wasn't due to inflammation of the pleural lining. Hmmm. The pain wasn't easing any so my next port of call was the local osteopath. Five minutes in to the session she said, "Ah yes, here's the problem........"

Now before I go any further let me explain something. While I fully accept that I may not be the sharpest knife in the block, a realisation that was crippling when I first made it but have come to terms with over time,  I was fairly sure I am of average intelligence. So imagine how dumb I felt when she ended her statement with, "'ve forgotten how to breathe!"

Wha...? How come someone forget how to breathe? That can't be possible, can it? Well, apparently it can. Sitting, incorrectly, at my sewing machine for periods of time had caused tension in my uneven shoulders. This led to pain in my ribs and in an attempt to alleviate it I had subconsciously stopped breathing from my diaphragm and was shallow breathing using muscles across my chest. Since they are usually only meant to be used as a back up when exercising (HA!) they had quite naturally become a bit irritated at being called in to do the bulk of the work.

A few retraining exercises later and I had my diaphragm back in on the act. Now all I had to do was correct my posture. I changed the height of my machine and my chair, and did what I could with the table. When hand sewing I made sure that I had a suitable support behind me. Problem solved.

Vintage advice, but still pertinent.

Or so I thought. Six weeks ago I began to get a strange sensation down my right arm. It felt as if cold water was constantly running down from my shoulder to my thumb. It later turned in to a persistent ache. I now have a tremor in my hand whenever I have to grip and exert pressure at the same time. It's made rotary cutting something of a challenge, and I don't even want to think about the amount of fabric that has suffered from the wibbly scissor syndrome.

My fine motor skills are slightly impaired and hand sewing is being kept to a minimum, mainly for the sake of my children's delicate ears ( I think I may have mentioned before that I'm not a patient patient) I'm having to type everything as my handwriting now appears to be the visual representation of a drunk spider learning to tap dance.

The cause of all of this disruption? A possible trapped nerve brought about by... you guessed it...poor posture while working. Looks like it's back to the drawing board for my machine set up.

And the moral to this rather long story? Well, fellow crafters, if there is a moral it would probably be this. Unless you want to give Charles Laughton a run for his money pay attention to how you work. Those little aches and pains are telling you to take a break and that maybe, just maybe, you need to balance a book on your head once in a while. 

Charles Laughton as the Hunchback of Notre Dame


A Time for Stitching said...

I'm sorry to hear about your posture problems but have to thank you for this useful post.I need reminding about my posture (which is not very good) every so often. I try to sit correctly at my work computer and sewing machine but am not always succesfully. I'm unable to adjust my sewing chair so get an ache in my neck after only 10 minutes or so. And my 'mouse' arm aches when I'm knitting. It's not always easy to be aware of posture when you're concentrating on what you're doing.
Teresa x

Emma Thomsen said...

What a really great post, we all need reminding at times. Sorry it's affected you so badly, I hope you have a swift recovery!

Jenny said...

Hi there! just wanted to pop over and say hello and thank you for following me! I've entered you into my giveaway...its open to anyone who follows and leaves a comment so you're in :)
Really enjoyed your post...given me thought to my dodgy posture over the years. Though I have to say your guising outfits take the biscuit!Absolutely AMAZING!!! My kids could only dream of such detailed and inventive outfits! That velcro splitting alien and inside out man...GENIUS :)X

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, this rings so many bells, you have my sympathies... I've been having issues with sore ribs recently, and a numb arm, surely due to similar issues... we need to look after ourselves. I'm planning on getting a Wave Chair for starters...

Eryl said...

I am sitting so straight now!

gtlady said...

Firstly, glad you're breathing better! Secondly, a good reminder to everyone, I too am guilty of bad posture, though not right now, obviously...but when you are trying to hook that tiny stitch and do that complicated pattern its not easy to do! So while I may look like your mate Charles in the future, at least I'll be looking good in my crochet!

Ali said...

What a good reminder, I hope you have found the optimum position for your activity and continue to recover....
I always remember an illustration in the Brownie handbook captioned 'Are you a skimpy skipper?'..which of course being tall and not wanting to be noticed I was..just as the picture depicted!
Thinking of you and hope you're fully mobile in the crafty arm department soon.
Ali xx

Linnhe Mara said...

Teresa, I know what you mean. When you start to concentrate on the task in hand all other considerations do tend to go out the window.
Emma, thanks for the good wishes, I'm sure it'll be resolved soon.
Hi Jenny, thanks for dropping by. Glad you liked the guising costumes , they were great fun to make.
Ali, a Wave Chair? I'm off to google.....
Eryl, heat always helps so you should be sorted now :o)
Jane, thanks for that giggle. If only poor Charles had had your talent!
Ali, thanks for your kind wishes. No doubt I'll correct my position this time just to affect some other part of me later. A crafters lot it would seem judging by what everyone says.:o)

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