Bad posture at work is very common these days. But what they don’t consider is that it can cause long lasting damage. Recent research, which investigated the effects of technology on our posture, has coined the term ‘tech neck’ — pain and wrinkles across the neck and chest that are derived from time spent looking at computers and handheld devices.
Why is our posture getting worse?
Not only can composing yourself in the wrong way give you ‘tech neck’, but it can also cause muscular problems and strains in other areas of the body. 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 issues from arising in the future.
Spending a long time sitting at a desk can cause back and neck misalignment too, but it’s 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.
What steps can you take?
Becoming more aware of your posture is the first step. This pushes you to make active changes and recognise when you could improve.
Tweaking the positioning of your body
Help develop a healthier posture by positioning your body the right way. This is important as possible that you’ll be sitting or standing like this for many hours. The way that we sit also has an effect on the way we walk, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.
Many health sources advise that good posture is where the body is in perfect alignment. This is where your spine can maintain its natural curvature and it isn’t strained, helping to ease pain experienced in your back. 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.
What is the best advice for those sitting down for a prolonged amount of time? Try and 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.
Problems can arise when you’re sitting on an elevated stool, as this can mean you’re letting your feet dangle without 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.
When you’re sitting at your desk, you should keep your shoulders in a relaxed position. Avoid hunching them up so that you can lean on the arms of your chair or rolling them forwards.
Ensure you’re provided with the right equipment
Ensure you’re being supplied with the correct equipment by your employer, to support your posture. Speak to your employer if you think that you need extra support or that your current equipment is affecting your posture.
For those spending most of the working day positioned at a desk, a suitably adjusted chair that supports that inward curve of your spine is important. 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.
You may benefit from accessing a cordless headset if you spend a large part of your day on the phone. 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.
Keep moving around
Getting up from your desk and moving around as much as possible, will make a big difference. 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.