Correct posture and alignment, especially while sitting for prolonged periods, is essential for office workers in order to prevent work related pain and injuries. Admittedly, most of us sit with poor posture at some point, but when a person has to adopt their sitting position for long periods of time, often day in and day out, poor health issues can result.
Some consequences of prolonged incorrect sitting posture…
- Neck pain and spasm
- Interscapular/thoracic pain and stiffness
- Lower back pain
- Muscular tension throughout the shoulder girdle
- Wrist, forearm or elbow pain
- Potential for lumbar disc irritation/bulging
What to do about it…
Many people admit they know they have poor posture, but don’t know what to do about it. This is where education becomes crucial. Correct workstation setup is very simple to teach and the most effective preventative tool we have in helping people avoid the above potentially disabling problems.
At Perth Posture Centre we are well trained and experienced in educating patients about workstation setup, postural corrective exercises and manual therapy that will alleviate any problems that may have arisen from poor office work habits. We use a combination of soft tissue massage, trigger point release, spinal mobilisation, dry needling (acupuncture) and exercises to stretch and strengthen anti-gravity muscles as well as improving alignment when we are faced with these workers. As usual, early detection and referral for treatment is the key.
Are you guilty of having poor posture while reading this blog post? If so, you may be suffering from a modern day health challenge called “tech neck.” Poor posture while utilising technology is a very common factor contributing to poor postural design.
Technology is recognized as one of the principle causes of the modern day posture epidemic. Poor posture due to looking down at a mobile phone is so common that a new diagnosis has been created to explain the phenomenon, and that is “tech neck.”
Do you suffer from headaches, neck pain, shoulder tightness or fatigue?
If you do, it could be due to your posture while using technology. Repetitive stresses from checking your mobile phone with improper posture or having slouched posture at work on your computer can have a tremendous impact on your posture and your health.
The impact of proper posture is far beyond the musculoskeletal system. Consider the following research studies showing that forward head posture has a negative impact on your health.
Did you know…?
Instead of looking down while sending a text message, checking your email or social media, raise your phone to eye level to avoid excessive strain to your neck and upper back. Also, be sure that when using a computer your screen is close enough where you can see it clearly without jutting your head forward, as well as having it at the correct height so you're not looking down to see the viewing area.
For proper posture while using technology, consider the following posture tips to re-train poor posture habits.
Many of us spend more time at our desks than any other place in our waking hours. While the risk of injury from sitting down can seem unlikely, spending hours in a poorly set up workspace can place a lot of pressure on your body and lead to overuse injuries or postural pain. Below are a few tips that can help you set up your workstation better.
The height of your chair is a good place to begin. Ideally, your feet should be flat on the floor, and if you can adjust the height of the chair, your thighs should be parallel to the floor. If your chair has armrests, they should be low enough to allow your elbows to sit comfortably between 90-110 degrees of bend and rest by the side of your body. A small cushion or rolled-up towel may be added to the back of the chair to add support to the lower back to help prevent slouching.
If you are unable to adjust your chair and it is too high, you can use a footrest to allow your feet to rest comfortably.
The height of your desk should be set so that your arms can rest comfortably at the keyboard and hands, wrists and forearms can sit in a neutral position, parallel to the floor. Where possible, put everything you need within easy reach and alternate days using your mouse and phone with different hands on different days (if you can do this with your non-dominant hand!).
The height of your computer should be raised so that the top of the screen is around eye level. Allowing your neck to rest in a neutral position can help to prevent neck pain and headaches. Ideally, if you can set the screen to be 20-40 inches away from your face, this will reduce strain on your eyes while reading.
Some other tips
Being comfortable is extremely important for productivity and focus. If you are struggling with pain, your work will often suffer. Even joint stiffness and muscle tightness can disrupt your workflow, so taking the time to adjust your workstation can save you countless hours in the long run and prevent painful overuse injuries.
Taking active breaks from sitting to move and stretch can help to maintain muscle and joint health, which can be compromised from being in the same posture too long. You can set a timer or make the effort to take phone calls and video meetings standing, rather than always sitting.
You can speak to your physiotherapist or posture specilaist for more personalised advice on your workplace setup.
What if I told you that your posture can cause minor aches and pains or long term pain, discomfort, and sometimes loss of function? As you lean forward on the edge of your seat to continue reading this, your shoulders may be slouching while your head might be shifting slightly forward. Do you do this often?
If you consistently read or look at a screen in this posture, or if you find yourself hanging your head when you walk, you could develop a common musculoskeletal condition called forward head posture (FHP).
Have you ever seen someone with their head and neck leaning forward? You may see it in older adults more, but with the routine activities we perform (e.g. mobile phone usage), it’s becoming more common.
If you perform activities regularly in poor alignment it alters your nerve and muscle pathways, which will cause the head and neck to adapt more readily to FHP. Some muscles will become stronger and tighter while others will become weaker and more stretched. The nerves could then be affected as well; even getting “pinched” or compressed. This does not occur overnight, it happens gradually. The more you perform an activity in poor alignment the less likely you are to notice you’re doing it and before long you’ll have FHP and the symptoms to go along with it. Some of you reading this may already have symptoms but never realized it until now.
Here are three questions to ask yourself regularly to help you avoid forward head posture:
What kind of posture do I have while I’m at work?
Whatever you do for a living, do it in good posture. You spend many hours of your life at work so this is one of the places you’ll need to be the most vigilant. Adjust your seat and laptop/computer so the top of the screen is at eye level- you shouldn’t feel like you have to strain or hunch forward to read something on the screen. It’s important you get a handle on this and help clients make the necessary adjustments.
Am I hanging my head/lurching my neck forward when reading, playing video games, or on my phone?
When it comes to activities involving books, mobile devices, or computer screens, you may have a bad habit of staring and not realizing the position your neck is in. Let’s do a small activity, where are you right now and what is your body doing? Pay attention to your head and neck. Are you guilty of the problem? Going forward, I want you to work on your awareness. When holding your mobile device, hold it higher and away from your face so it’s comfortable. Use your eyes instead of leaning your neck forward or tilting your chin downward when on your phone. Check your body alignment when playing video games, especially if you slouch. If you’re reading books, pay attention to how you’re sitting or lying, and where your head and neck are positioned. Remember, you do these activities often, so make sure you habitually do them in good alignment.
When I exercise or perform activities, do I have poor mechanics and don’t realize it?
Have you ever seen someone performing an exercise and they’re pushing their head and neck forward, maybe with the increased effort? I’ve seen too many people jut their chin and head forward while performing exercises. My point here is when you exercise you must pay attention to what your body is doing. Let’s make some changes now by correcting our poor habits.
I hope you pass this message along because there are too many people who probably have symptoms and don’t realize what’s causing them. Symptoms could be as simple as neck pain or headaches, or more complex than that. While every ache or pain isn’t caused by poor posture, it’s still worth checking your head and neck to ensure they’re in proper alignment. Ask yourself these questions and keep correcting yourself where possible.