One simple step to better posture at work!
What’s your posture like? The average head weighs between 10 to 12 pounds. When we bend our necks forward to 60 degrees, as we often do when we use our phones or devices, the stress on our neck increases to 60 pounds- the approximate weight of six tenpin bowling balls, four car tyres, a small armchair or a boxer dog.
Why are we talking about head weight and boxers? As lots of us head back to work this week after the holiday break, we thought we’d focus on posture for those who spend long hours driving, or sat at desks.
Poor posture is known to cause headaches, upper back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and lower back pain, but it can extend as far as causing pelvic pain and problems with your lower limbs too.
One of the most common postural issues for office workers is forward head carriage, where the chin juts forward and puts increase stress on the joints and muscles in the upper back. This also causes the chest muscles to tighten, pulling the shoulders forwards and causing an excessive curvature in the upper back and the muscles in the upper back weaken.
Who is at risk of developing poor posture?
Anyone who sits for long hours, or drives for long hours. Studies have shown that drivers of trucks and vehicles are at greater risk of lower back, neck or musculoskeletal pain as they have poor sitting posture and few breaks. Those who work in an office or use computers for long hours are also at risk, and studies have implicated poor sitting posture in the development of neck pain syndromes which often become chronic.
Not only that, but our emotional state can have an impact on our posture. We slouch when we’re sad, when we’re stressed and when we’re tired. Studies have shown that when people are depressed, they adopt a posture similar to that of “slouchers”– the head drops forward, the shoulders collapse, the arms become drawn in to the body and the upper back becomes rounded. This recent article from the New York Times raises some interesting insights into how posture can affect our mood, and even cause depression and anxiety.
Combat poor posture quickly
- If you you work long hours at a desk and have the option, use a chair that’s ergonomically designed for proper support and designed for your height and weight. If an ergonomic chair isn’t an option, try using a small pillow in the small of your back, this will help support your lower back.
Remember, however, that sitting is the new smoking. Studies have shown that no amount of physical activity can counterract the damage caused by long hours sitting.
- Sit back in your chair with your bottom against the base of the lumbar support. This makes slouching difficult. If you keep your shoulderblades in contact with the chair, this will also stop you from craning your neck forward.
- As with standing posture, keep your shoulders straight and squared, your head nicely upright, and your neck, back, and heels in alignment. Try to avoid crossing your legs or knees as this can affect the pelvis and cause lower back pain.
- Can you touch the ground with the flats of your feet? If not, you need a footrest. When sitting, your feet should always be flat on the floor.
- You should have a nice gentle bend (between 75 to 90 degrees) through your elbows, they should not be stuck straight out. If your arms are straight, you’re sitting too far back. More than 90 degrees angle and you’re sitting too close.
Our main bug-bear with fancy office chairs is that there is a tendency to want to sit for too long in it, because “it’s ergonomic and therefore good for my posture.” We’d suggest using an exercise ball to sit on instead as this encourages “active” or “dynamic sitting”. With active sitting, the upper body is free and self-supported and has to balance itself, reducing the number of passive, inactive muscles. We engage our abdominal and back muscles, which strengthens our core and you’ll be burning calories too!
What exercises help with poor posture?
Any exercises that target the core muscles will help with poor posture. Yoga and pilates are a very good place to start as these teach you to engage your core and sit actively.
Posture building exercises are a pivotal part of our treatment programme and existing patients will receive their own exercise resource to help counterract the effects of poor posture.
Want to find out the one simple exercise that will automatically improve your posture? Here it is!
If you’d like to sign up to receive our online resources and downloads, please sign up to our mailing list here. We’ll never spam you, but we will send you useful information, advice and resources that will help you manage your health and back pain.