If you are in a position where you sit all day either at a desk, in a car or even at machinery the effect of poor posture while sitting can be having an effect on your health.
Oh and do not forget mums who sit for long periods holding their infant, this has the same effect except can be more detrimental as they are holding the weight of their child in front of them which increases the load on their neck and shoulders! Often people who have to sit for long periods of time can eventually start to suffer from neck and shoulder pain, headaches, low back pain and even carpal tunnel.
We are designed to be able to cope with short periods of poor posture. The problem is that a high percentage of the population are in this posture for long periods, day after day. As a result there is lack of movement in the neck, which can lead to interference of the nerves in this area. The nerve interference is what is sending the pain signal to the brain for you to become consciously aware there is a problem. The muscles of the neck and shoulders have a lack of strength, as a result they become more fatigued and have to work harder to hold the body in a poor posture.
How should you have your computer setup for correct ergonomics, to lessen the effects of poor posture? What simple strategies can you do to counteract the negative effects of sitting?
How should your computer be set up?
Have the screen set up so when your eyes are looking straight ahead they are in the top 1/3 of the computer screen. This may mean that you need to raise your screen higher by placing books (or similar) under it.
Your desk should be at the height where your elbows are relaxed at a 90 degree bend by your side and able to relax on the desk.
The same principle applies to laptops, in that you need to raise the screen. As the screen of the laptop is raised, you will need to get an external keypad and mouse so as your arms are relaxed by your side. If you do not do this you will end up with forward head posture and your shoulders rounding forward. This can eventually cause neck pain, shoulder pain and headaches, as there is pressure on the nerves in the neck and upper back. More importantly these nerves have an impact on brain function so may lead to brain fog, poor concentration and poor energy as well as the nerves which supply your chest so may lead to breathing difficulties and chest pain.
What about stand up desks?
Stand up desks are great but it is important to realise that movement is still needed. If you are standing still all day in the one position you can end up having problems too.
When using a stand-up desk the same principle applies for your screen setup. having one foot slightly raised resting on something that is even a few centimeters off the ground, this will help to keep your hips balanced. If you do not raise one foot you will end up holding your weight through one hip or swaying your hips forward as you stand for long periods. Raising one foot at a time and alternating will help to relax your lower back and keep it balanced.
Once again it is important to make time to stretch and move even with a standing desk. It may work best for you to have a desk where the desk height can be altered allowing you to vary between sitting and standing.
What sort of chair is best?
The type of chair is actually not the important thing. What is important is how you sit in the chair. Even if you have a chair that is meant to be amazing for supporting your posture, it is still possible for you to slouch. Make sure is that you sit upright from your lower back. This will naturally make your upper body sit upright. If you slouch through your lower back, you will naturally be rounded and have forward head posture. This forward head posture is what leads to neck, shoulder pain and other health issues overtime.
Did you know? Research has shown for every centimeter your head is forward it requires the muscles in the back of your neck to work 10% harder.
Imagine what affect this extra force is having as it continues to pull on your spine! This is why so many people who sit for long periods through the day end up with extremely tight neck and shoulders, headaches, chest pain and pins and needles down the arms, not to mention the negative effect it is having on their health also!
Better still, if your workplace will allow, sit on a swiss ball. When you are on a swiss ball you can keep your lower back more mobile. If you slouch when sitting on a swiss ball you may fall off, therefore this feedback will encourage you to sit up straight.
Use a foam support to assist you to maintain good posture while you are sitting. The foam support sits just below your shoulder blades so you can hold your shoulders back over top of it. This helps to open up your chest as well as encourage good neck posture too.
If you think Chiropractic Care would benefit you and your health, or you would simply like more information regarding correct ergonomics in the workplace, please call our practice on (03) 54443388. We would be delighted to assist.
Dr. Deanne Esposito