Hey you! Yes, you; the leaner-inner, eye squinter, shoulder huncher. Straighten up your back, adopt a safe reading distance, release the tension in your neck, drop those shoulders, and read on; this one’s for you.
Having bad posture is something that many of us are guilty of, and often we fall into it as a short-term relief provider from the aches and pains accrued throughout a day of sitting and typing. Ultimately though, it can lead to 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. And that’s something we’re all prone to, as more and more work, worldwide, is done at the desk. With that in mind, here are 4 IDEAL ways to improve your posture in the office.
FOCUS ON BODY POSITIONING
If you maintain a bad posture, you’re not only at risk of ‘tech neck’, but it can lead to muscle problems and strains in other areas of the body too; something we all want to avoid. In fact, poor posture is known to be one of the major causes of back problems.
Ensuring that you’re positioning your body in the correct way is key — you’re likely to be sitting or standing like this for long stretches, five times a week, at least, so it’s important that you’re not doing yourself subtle, accumulative damage.
Health experts say that good posture is where the body is in perfect alignment. This is where your spine can maintain its natural curvature and isn’t strained unduly. 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, like a puppet. Kinda. 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.
BE CONSCIOUS OF HOW YOU SIT
If your job is deskbound, then a little slouching is inevitable. But what can you do to reduce the impact of being sedentary for large stretches of the day? Well, sitting back in the chair rather than perching on the edge is a good start, as this offers your back some support and again, stops you from slouching. Do not sit so far back that your feet dangle though, or the weight of your body will be spread out strangely. 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. If you sit on a high stool at work (or if you’re propping up the bar regularly) tuck in your feet in and rest them on the support.
When it comes to your shoulders, make sure that they’re in a relaxed position. Avoid hunching them up so that you can lean on the arms of your chair or rolling them forwards.
If you have a desk job, you’re also at risk of causing back and neck misalignment. Research has even shown that sitting time has a positive correlation with lower back pain and neck-shoulder pain intensity. However, 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, whilst offering relief from back pain.
ASK FOR THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Good posture doesn’t start and end with us. The responsibility also lies with your employer. Not only do we need to sit in the right way, but we need to be using equipment that supports our good posture.
Having a supporting chair is an important piece of equipment to own. Armrests 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, 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 and at your eye level. A neck rest can also be used to help you relax your neck when you’re not typing if you wish.
You could benefit from a cordless headset if you’re on the phone a lot; you might find yourself cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder, which can add unnecessary strain to our neck, upper back and shoulders.
Try and keep moving if you can. Even if you’re sitting with good posture, being sat in the same place for a prolonged period can still be harmful. Moving around at work, on the other hand, 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. By standing during phone calls, taking a break from the computer every 30 minutes and stretching your legs, walking to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing them and doing some desk exercises, you’ll be reducing the sedentary way of work which is so detrimental to our health and well being. Good luck!