Did you know that long-term medical conditions can show up in the body due to bad posture, from our desk-based working environment? A report which investigated the effects of technology on our posture, has dubbed the condition as ‘tech neck’ — translated as pain and wrinkles across the neck and chest, derived from time spent in front of computers and handheld devices.
Our posture is suffering and it’s a growing problem
A complaint such as ‘tech neck’ is just one of the problems arising in the body, due to bad posture. In fact, poor posture is known to be one of the major causes of back problems. It depends on your posture as to which muscle groups feel the strain. Even if you’re not experiencing problems now, improving your posture is something that you should consider to prevent back pain issues from arising in the future.
Back and neck misalignment often come about from extended periods of time spent at a desk — something that many of us can’t avoid. Research has even shown that sitting time has a positive correlation with lower back pain and neck-shoulder pain intensity. You’ll be pleased to hear that there are some actions that you can take to maintain a good posture when you’re at work.
How to begin making healthy changes for our posture
Firstly, you can only improve your posture by becoming more aware of it. This pushes you to make active changes and recognise when you could improve.
1. Finding a comfy position in your chair that supports your posture
Positioning your body correctly at work can really enhance your wellbeing. The way that we sit also has an effect on the way we walk, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.
A healthy posture is achieved when the body is in perfect alignment. This is where your spine can maintain its natural curvature and it isn’t strained. The best way to sit or stand in this way is to imagine there is a string attached to the top of your head that’s pulling you up. This should lengthen your stance, improve the way that you’re positioned, and stop you from slouching. You might find that slouching is temporarily comfortable, but over time it can lead to strain on already sensitised muscles and soft tissues.
Make a conscious effort to sit back in the chair rather than perching on the edge, as this offers your back some support and again, stops you from slouching. Do not sit as far back so that your feet dangle though.
Do spend some time checking-in with your feet. Assess whether you let them dangle, as that can cause problems. If you sit on a high stool at work for example, tuck them in and rest them on the support. Positioning yourself so that your legs hang over the side of your chair causes gravity to pull your feet towards the ground and this tilts your pelvis backwards, which can lead to pain.
Have you got your shoulders positioned correctly? Ensure that they remain in a relaxed position to reduce risk of developing any pain. Avoid hunching them up so that you can lean on the arms of your chair or rolling them forwards.
2. Assess your equipment needs and adjust accordingly
It’s important to reassess the equipment we’re using and decide if we need to switch to something else that supports our good posture. Speak to your employer if you think that you need extra support or that your current equipment is affecting your posture.
If you sit a lot at your desk, adjust your chair, making sure it supports the inward curve of your spine. Arm rests can help provide support, but they need to be the correct height. If they’re too high, this can cause raised shoulders, and if they’re too low, it can cause leaning. As we mentioned before, make sure that your chair is the right height so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are parallel to, or just lower than, your hips. Your screen should be directly in front of you, around an arm’s length away with the top of the screen at your eye level. A neck rest can also be used to help you relax your neck when you’re not typing.
Do you use the telephone much at work? A cordless headset may be a better option if you’re using it frequently. This is because you might find yourself cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder, which can add unnecessary strain to our neck, upper back and shoulders.
3. Get up and move around the office
Remaining mobile is key. Even if you are sitting with good posture, being sat in the same place for a prolonged period can still be harmful. And, moving around at work has other fitness benefits too. In fact, when asked to interrupt their sitting at work every half an hour throughout the day, overweight/obese office workers showed a 32% reduction in lower back discomfort, compared to seated work. But how can you keep moving at work?
- Standing during phone call.
- Taking a break from the computer every 30 minutes and stretching your legs.
- Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing them.
- Doing some desk exercises.