In today’s world, much of our days are spent sitting at a computer for many hours at a time. Here are a few key points about why this may be detrimental in the long run.
Now since you started reading about posture, I bet you perked up in your seat doing your best to improve how you have been sitting this morning. Although this is great, if your computer screen is not at least sitting at eye level, there is probably some degree of forward head posture in your neck. While in a relaxed sitting posture, your ear should sit over your AC joint which is the large bump on the top of the shoulder. For each inch forward that your head moves from here, there is 10 extra pounds added to your head. This leads to extra strain of the muscles in the back of the neck trying to pull it back. Because these muscles are on, the muscles in the front which are required to bring the head backward shut off and become progressively more weak over time.
Soreness at the bottom of your neck and headaches that feel like they are coming from the base of your skull and wrapping around to your forehead or behind your eyes are the most common complaint we see from this posture. If chronic in nature, it does take several treatments to work out the tightness in the joints, muscles and surrounding fascia. Take home stretches and self-mobilizations are also very important to ensure posture correction. Once flexibility and shared joint motion are improved, strengthening exercises are given to better stabilize the entire neck, making it easier to maintain good neck position.
Cervical retractions are the most common exercise given for this complaint. It starts with putting yourself in a good position on the chair. Lean forward slightly and scooch your bum as far back into your chair as you can. Allow you back and shoulders to relax into the chair- never pulling the shoulders downward. Next, a chin retraction; focusing on bringing the entire head backward and upward, as if to give yourself a double chin. This brings the head over the shoulders. Hold here for a breath or two and perform 8-10 times about once per hour.
This exercise is not a simple one as you first introduce it. Many people feel as though they are hitting a brick wall as they retract the chin backwards. The thing to realize though is each time you perform the exercise, you are stretching the muscles and mobilizing the joints. This will lead to loosening the area over time, making it much easier to do.
None of this will help, however, if your computer screen is not at an optimum height. When patients come in with question about their work station, the first thing I do is have them ask a co-worker to take real photos of what their posture is during the day. This is without you knowing they are taken! I can notice very quickly if your screen is too low and causing strain on your neck.
The next big topic of discussion is the lower back. Although it is said that sitting is the new smoking, standing all day is not great for the back either! Most people will jump right to switching over to a standing desk, but the problem isn’t sitting. It is staying in one spot for too long.
Your joints were built to move and move often. This is especially true of the joints of the lower back, pelvis and legs. If I had it my way and could go into every single office space, I would give every desk jockey a vary-desk; something they can both sit and stand at. They would change from sitting to standing each hour when a buzzer went off and would be required to walk the length of the office at least once an hour. For their chair, they would have both a regular chair with some sort of low back support for good spine position and a stability ball to sit on. Each varied posture will work different muscles and the joints would not stay in one place for too long.
That’s right! You can still sit at your desk, but not for 8 hours straight.
A lumbar support is a very inexpensive device which allows the lumbar spine or the low back to have a proper curve while in a seated position. Most of the time, we see a very flat almost rounded back with a tucked under rear end in office setting photos. This will mean you feel the weight through your tailbone or butt crack instead of on the backs of your thighs.
Don’t get me wrong, people will also overly arch the back when trying to sit in a good posture which is just as bad for the joints of the lower back. This happens very often when the back of the chair is never used. Most office chairs are pretty ergonomic, so use the chair! Neutral is what you are looking for to decrease stress of the lower back. To attain this in a seated posture, lean forward slightly and scooch your bum as far back as you can possibly get it. When I say this in the clinic, people could always go back a little further then they think. From here, simply relax the rest of your back into the chain. Use 10% of your chin tuck or double chin position and that is neutral.
Along with the lower back, is the feet. If your feet are not touching the ground in your chair, you have zero points of stability for the rest of the body. There are cases where vertically challenged patients have to bring a box to rest the feet on, which works just as well. You really want the thigh to be flat with the ground and the knees to be bent to 90 degrees. Also, no crossing of the legs ladies. One point of support is just as bad as no support at all.
Common exercises for the lower back are Cobra pose and standing lumbar extensions. Both create motion in the lower back and get those big joints moving. Once better shared motion is created and we see relaxation of the muscles, core strengthening exercises are given for optimal stability.
The last point we will touch on today is arm position. If you are working from a laptop, this is especially important. With the hands on the keyboard, you want your elbows relaxed close to your sides and forearms to be flat with the ground or just below 90 degrees. In order to make this happen with a laptop, a wireless keyboard is a must. With both neck and shoulder positioning in mind, this puts the least amount of stress on the muscles and allows for all of the joints to be in a neutral position.
Would you like your work station evaluated? Call (980) 237-4016 to set up a consultation with one of our docs and get the process started! We can also write a professional letter to your company requesting a better work station if necessary or even give a presentation to your entire company about the importance of ergonomics. Become more efficient and decrease pain with simple exercises and movement of equipment!