A Guide to Maintaining Good Posture in the Office

Bad posture might seem comfy in the short-term, but it can actually cause long-term damage. In a recent study into the effects of technology on our posture, the phrase ‘tech neck’ was coined to describe the pain and wrinkles that appear on the neck and chest that develop as a result of extended time spent looking at computers and handhelds such as tablets and smartphones.

Bad posture can cause pains and strains across various parts of your 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.

Another catalyst for back and neck pains is extensive desk time. 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.

So how do we tackle the problem?

Being aware of the issue is half the battle. This pushes you to make active changes and recognise when you could improve.

When you’ll be sitting for many hours, such as at work, it’s vital that your body position is correct. 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 and improve the way that you’re positioned, helping those experience knee pain and back ache. You might find that slouching is temporarily comfortable, but over time it can lead to strain on already sensitised muscles and soft tissues.

For jobs that require you to sit down for long periods, what is the best practice…?

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.

Keep your shoulders relaxed. Avoid hunching them up so that you can lean on the arms of your chair or rolling them forwards.  

There are options available for extra support too. Speak to your employer if you think that you need extra support or that your current equipment is affecting your posture.

At a desk job, a chair that provides support for the inward curve of your spine is crucial. 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.

A cordless headset might be helpful if you use the phone a lot at work. 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.    

Move around!

Keeping mobile is beneficial. 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.
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