Like most people I know, I spend nearly all of my working day in front of a computer.
And, like most people, my face gets nearer the screen as the day goes on. By close of business, I'm nose to nose with Microsoft Word and hunch-backed into the bargain.
I do try. Chronic shoulder pain has forced me on a journey that has taken in Pilates, yoga, physiotherapy, acupuncture and massage. Yet the hunchback is a persistent visitor, and if I'm honest, I have only myself to blame. I know the theory of good posture, but bless them, my shoulders start giving in to the afternoon slump before midday.
When it gets really bad, I take action and while all the therapies listed above have given some relief, none has proved to be lasting. That's why Somatic Movement Education sounded so tempting.
It's a type of mind-body training that gives you the tools to heal yourself by 'unlearning' the bad postural habits that lead to pain, tension and stress.
Best of all, once you learn the principles and commit to a 15-minute daily programme of exercise, you may never need to seek help again.
At least that was yoga teacher Lisa Petersen's experience. She was so impressed with the training that she and partner Tanya Fitzpatrick now run Align, a Dublin-based company specialising in somatics.
Lisa explains: "I had been a yoga teacher for five years and was suffering from chronic lower-back strain from an old gymnastics injury.
"I couldn't find any way to cure it and had spent thousands of euro on therapies from chiros, to osteos, to rolfing, to acupuncture, to trager. . . you name it. It looked like I would have to stop teaching yoga because I literally couldn't hold myself consistently together.
"At the last minute, a friend saw me almost in tears at a yoga workshop and told me a teacher was flying in from India the next week to do something called Somatic Movement Education.
"That was five years ago and I haven't looked back. I work not only as a somatics practitioner now, but I teach yoga all over the world."
Bring it on, I thought, as I booked a session with Tanya Fitzpatrick and found myself standing in front of a huge mirror to assess my posture. I was horrified at the slanted figure looking back at me.
I discovered that I was balancing on my toes instead of my heels, that my tailbone was tilting forward instead of in neutral and, as a result, my shoulders were thrown too far back. No wonder I had pain.
What surprised me most was my own lack of awareness. Lying on a table, I tried a few gentle rolling movements and it felt as if the bones in my lower back had rusted over.
The relief, even after a single session, was very encouraging. In the four sessions that followed (see panel) I learnt a lot about my own bad posture and the things I do repeatedly that cause pain. But why do I tie myself into such a knot and why, like the three-in-five Irish workers who suffer from back pain, couldn't I work out how to fix myself?
The problem, says Lisa, is simple. "We are made to move, but modern life conspires against activity.
We spend our days sitting at desks hunched over computer screens. Technology has freed us from manual labour, but our backs can no longer support us properly, resulting in an epidemic of back problems in the western working world."
Health & Living