Good work posture is renowned for being important in the office, yet is hardly ever encouraged. It may feel more comfortable to slouch in your chair, or it seems like you are too busy to notice your posture. But over time the build up of bad pressure and stretch through your muscles and joints can lead to long term changes which (as habits are) very hard to change.
This is why it is so important to make changes to your posture, before your muscles and joints start to develop tension and pain, or in many cases- cause injuries during other activities and sports.
How does posture relate to increased risk of injury?
When sitting in front of a computer/ desk it is our natural inclination to lean forward to get closer to what it is we are working on.
Starting with your head looking closer at your screen/ books, this then automatically causes your upper back to lean forward too. Then add in typing or writing and your arms will constantly be out in front of you. All these factors together can lead to everything in the front of your body (chest/ shoulders) becoming shortened and tight, and the muscles and joints behind (neck, shoulders and back) becoming over stretched. While this might be fine for just a few hours, your body will not like it after an 8-9 hour day.
This overall change in body alignment means that your muscles and joints will no longer move as they are designed to, so activities such as throwing a ball, or doing your normal gym exercises will start to use different techniques to compensate for the tightness (faulty movement patterns) which can then lead to new injuries.
So how do I make sure I have good posture?
It only takes 3 easy steps!
1) Sit IN your chair:
Start by sitting your bottom all the way back in the seat and have your back leaning against the back of the chair. The use of a lumbar roll or rolled up towel here is a brilliant way to maintain the natural curve of your low spine without you having to think about it!
Try to have your knees level with your hips and feet flat on the floor.
The support from the chair back and lumbar roll allows your back muscles to relax, while still retaining good spinal posture. Having your knees level with your hips can reduce the tightness in the front of your hips which can cause more strain on the low back.
2) Relax your shoulders:
Start by relaxing your arms by your sides and doing a few shoulder rolls forward and backward letting go of some of your tension. Ideally this is where we want your shoulders to stay! Have your chair in close to your desk so that by bending your elbows your hands should rest on your keyboard/ desk area, without you having to lean forward out of your chair.
Have other frequently used items (mouse, phone etc) in as close proximity to you as possible.
As soon as you reach your arm up or forwards (say for your computer mouse) muscles in your neck and shoulder are being activated to hold your limb up. This is fine for short periods of time, but once they have to work for a full 8 hours of every work day, pain and tension can start to arise.
Finally, if you are reaching forward with your arms to your desk, the rest of your body is bound to follow. In no time at all, you will find yourself hunched forward over your desk again!
3) Eye level:
Have your desk arranged so that the computer/ main focus is at eye level directly in front of you. (Propping your computer up with old phone books or file boxes that are never used is a great trick). Imagine a piece of string is being pulled all the way up through your body and out the top of your head to the ceiling, pulling your body up tall and straight.
The average human head weighs around 5kgs! That’s quite a lot of weight to ask your small neck muscles to have to hold up for 6-8 hours a day when you have your head leant forward, or off to one side, and is more than likely to contribute to your neck/ shoulder aches or those pesky headaches.
As a long term maintenance option, some people find that have a massage every month or two helps as a ‘reset button’ to maintain good body alignment, and prevent a build up of tension forming before it starts causing issues.
If you want to know more, or get your own posture assessed, or book in for a massage, give us a call (0161 832 9000).
More information can be found here.