For many of us, spending large amounts of our day facing a computer at a desk is unavoidable. For a large percentage of the population, a daily desk-based work environment combined with incorrect posture, means that back and neck issues are a common complaint.
In fact, bad posture can create long-lasting damage in the body. 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.
The rise of ‘Tech neck’
Now a complaint, ‘tech neck’ is just one of the biggest problems occurring 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 issues now, improving your posture is something that you should consider to prevent problems with back pain from arising in the future.
Lengthy periods of time spent at office desks is leading to many cases of back and neck misalignment — something that many of us can’t escape. 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 make changes towards improving your 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.
Achieving a comfortable yet correct position at your desk
Why not enhance your wellbeing and start with positioning your body correctly at work? The way that we sit also has an effect on the way we walk too, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.
When the body is in perfect alignment at your desk, a healthy posture is achieved. 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.
As they say, don’t slouch! Making a conscious effort to sit back in the chair rather than perching on the edge, as this will help your stop slouching and offer your back some support. Do not sit as far back so that your feet dangle though.
Do take the time to checking-in with the positioning of 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.
Now for your offering some support for your shoulders… are they 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.
Source the right equipment to support your posture
Consider the equipment you’re currently using and assess whether you need to switch to something else that would offer more support and promote a better posture. Speak to your employer if you think that your current equipment is affecting your posture.
Do make sure your chair supports the inward curve of your spine, otherwise adjust accordingly. 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 your working day includes a lot of time on the telephone, you may want to consider switching to a cordless headset. 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 the office and often
Staying mobile throughout the day 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.
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.