"You might find that slouching is temporarily comfortable, but over time it can lead to strain on already sensitised muscles and soft tissues"
New research, which examined the effects of technology on our posture, has devised the term ‘tech neck’ — pain and wrinkles across the neck and chest that result from too much time spent looking at computers and handheld devices. Bad posture can cause long-lasting damage to the body and is something we need to take seriously in our digital age.
Our digital age and the growing problem of bad posture
Bad posture can not only give you ‘tech neck’, it can lead to 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.
Unfortunately, another main cause of back and neck misalignment is spending prolonged 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.
What are the solutions you can adopt?
The first step you can take to bettering your posture is being aware of it. This pushes you to make active changes and recognise when you could improve.
With the right body positioning
Positioning your body in the right way at work is important, as it’s 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.
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. 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.
If your job requires sitting down for a prolonged period, what should you be doing? 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.
Letting your feet dangle 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.
Your shoulders should also be in a relaxed position to relieve any pain experienced in the shoulders. Avoid hunching them up so that you can lean on the arms of your chair or rolling them forwards.
Employ the right equipment
Not only do we need to sit in the right way, but we 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 you have a desk job, 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.
If you use the telephone a lot at work, you might find that a cordless headset would be better suited. 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.
It’s important to keep moving throughout the working day
It’s important to stay mobile. 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 in your office space throughout the day?
· 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.