Sitting down on an office chair for eight hours a day does nobody any favors. As I’m sure you’re already aware, our bodies aren’t really built for long periods of inactivity. But like as it often seems to, it gets in the way of our best intentions, such as keeping ourselves in tip top condition.
Worry not, we’re here to help. In this article we’ll be suggesting some methods that you can use to maintain good posture in the office and – fingers crossed – keep clear of that dreaded nagging back pain.
Don’t Sit for Long Periods - Move Around
There are no surprises that for guessing that the less time you spend sitting in your office chair, the less you’re going to ache. So get up and move about!
Sitting for long periods is generally not a healthy past time, increasing the risks of diabetes and some types of cancer, and it isn’t a good method to achieve a well-aligned spine.
Sitting for a long time means muscles become tired and slouching creeps in, regardless of your best intentions. Rolling your shoulders and craning your neck take their toll.
To stop this, get up and move about regularly. This gives your muscles a break, ensures pressure on your spine isn’t persistent, and promotes the flow of blood around the body. All important habits for keeping a healthy body.
Choose Your Footwear Wisely
Fatigue often travels around the body and away from the actual source. This is called referred pain. So, if you’re feeling pain in your knees, hips, or back, those areas might not be the source of the problem. It may well be your feet.
That’s why it’s a good idea to choose your footwear wisely. High heels are a prime example, exacerbating posture problems that travel from your feet all the way up to your spine! High heels tighten calves and force women to walk on their tip toes. They can even change your gait.
Flat shoes, on the other hand, allow us to stand in the correct, natural position. They might not always be as fashionable, but they’re certainly better for our health.
Though you might want to wear high heels for certain occasions, consider wearing flats more often.
… And Consider a Footrest
Could the footrest be your mysterious hero to send the posture pains on their way?
Though not often considered during the setup of an office space, a footrest can be massively helpful in providing support so that you sit in an ergonomic posture that is healthy for your body.
Your feet should rest firmly on the floor, but if you’re short then this might not be the case. For short people, or simply those with really big chairs, use a footrest to offer a foundation for your feet. Your back will thank you later!
A footrest also heightens your knees which in turn reduces pressure on the spine when you’re in the sitting position. Usually for hours!
Find your Alignment
Leaning into the computer screen is an almost imperceptible but frequent habit. One minute you’ve aligned your posture just as you promised yourself you would try to do more often, and the next your face is only inches from the screen. And that’s when you start to notice the creaking neck.
One way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to keep it all in line. By all, we mean your ears, shoulders, and spine. Straight as an arrow is the idea.
Rather than a jutted head and rounded shoulders, tease your ears into alignment with your shoulders, and keep that spine strong.
Ask a colleague to check if you’re lined up straight, or check out your reflection in a window.
Posture Practice Makes Perfect
This tip isn’t strictly for office use, but should be part of any serious plan to improve your posture.
Sitting in an office chair all day and staring at a screen will give you a hunch. Poor posture weakens areas like the lower back, but tightens others, like the trapezius muscles. Your back and neck can be forever in pain and in extreme cases, muscle spasms and pinched nerves. Never enjoyable.
Posture exercises can counter this and really make office life more bearable.
Shoulder shrugs are simple but effective.
- Stand up straight with your chest out and chin set forward.
- Slowly shrug your shoulders up and down.
- Repeat three times for periods of 10 seconds each, three times per day.
Wall Angels can also be used in the workplace and will help loosen the trapezius and neck muscles.
- Stand against the wall with your legs spread shoulder width apart and your heels touching the wall behind you.
- Raise your arms to the wall and bend at your elbows, at a 90° angle, as though you’re holding up the ceiling. Make sure your palms face away from the wall.
- Slowly move your arms up and down. Repeat 15 times. Do this three times per day.
And for those who need something about getting stronger, this is a fantastic video resource.
Reorder your Desk!
You may have taken the time to decorate your desk space with a mug full of pens and some photos of loved ones when you first arrived at your job, but one vital step that the majority of us miss out is ordering our desks to provide ergonomic perfection and improve our posture.
There are lots of easy ways to do this. Here’s a few of them:
- Make sure your hips are pushed as far back into the chair as possible. Assuming that you’ve got an ergonomic desk chair, its bends will support your lower back.
- Set the back of the desk chair at a 100 - 110° reclined angle. This is the optimal position for your spine
- Avoid overreaching for anything on your desk. That includes the phone and mouse.
- Ensure you have a comfortable arm position. Use armrests if needed, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
- Use wrist supports for typing if required, and tilt your keyboard so that fingers don’t overreach and strain.
- Try to ensure that your eye line is in line with the top of the screen. This will reduce the likelihood of having to lower your head.
A final tip that is more general. Try to keep aware of your posture. This can be difficult to do and old poor posture habits die hard, but if you keep your posture in mind, then you’re sure to feel the benefits.If you’re really worried, posture taping might be the solution for you.