Poor posture related to our desk-based work environments can cause long-lasting damage to the body. Findings from an investigation on the effects of technology on our posture, coined the term ‘tech neck’ — explained as pain and wrinkles across the neck and chest, caused by spending long periods of time looking at computers and handheld devices.
Poor posture: an increasing problem
As well as leading to ‘tech neck’, it can cause muscle 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.
Back and neck misalignment can come about from spending prolonged amounts of time 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 can you take effective action?
Firstly, aim to improve your posture by becoming more aware of it. This pushes you to make active changes and recognise when you could improve.
Learning to position your body properly
With sitting or standing for long periods at work, positioning your body in the right way at work can influence 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.
Good 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.
Does your job requires sitting down for a prolonged period? If so, 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.
Check-in with your feet and 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.
Ensure that your shoulders remain in a relaxed position to reduce risk of developing shoulder pain. Avoid hunching them up so that you can lean on the arms of your chair or rolling them forwards.
Supportive equipment for your posture
Sitting in the correct way is one element to consider, but we also need to be using equipment 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 spending a large amount of your working day 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.
When it comes to using the telephone 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.
The importance of moving around in your work environment
Staying mobile is important. 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?
Author bio: Lee Dover is a senior copywriter at Mediaworks with an interest in healthcare as well as researching into healthier ways of living. He has a BA (Hons) in Magazine Journalism.