What “Good Posture” Looks Like
What is good posture? Is there such a thing? I like to educate my patients on office ergonomics by explaining that each bone and joint is designed to support a specific amount of pressure. When we are in a “neutral posture” the pressure placed on our joints is evenly distributed.
Try it now: Sitting at your desk follow the instructions below
Steps for Proper Sitting Posture
- Feet: Your feet should be flat on the floor. If your chair or desk height does not enable this, use a phonebook (pfff, who has one these days?) or a couple of binders to prop them up.
- Knees: Your knees should be at hip height so that thighs are parallel to the floor. To make this happen, adjust your chair height or order more phonebooks.
- Low back: A neutral low back posture has a little bit of an inward curve. This means that your back should not be completely straight. To help with this, use a simple aid like a rolled-up towel that is placed between your buttocks and lower back.
- Mid-back: You should be able to sit up on your chair comfortably and use the mid-back support intermittently (yes, engage those abdominals).
- Shoulders: Squeeze your shoulders back to the point where you feel a slight ‘chest out’ posture. They should also be depressed like they are being pulled down to the ground.
- Neck: The chin should be lightly tucked down towards the chest and then the neck retracted, meaning pulled back from the base of the head. Almost as if you were going to give yourself a double chin… but not. Make sense?
- Distance from the computer: You should be sitting fairly close to the keyboard so that your elbows are as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. The monitor should be centered in front of you at eye level. Typically monitors need to be slightly elevated. Again, this is where those phonebooks come in handy!
Desk Job-Related Injuries
Now, let’s carry on. Many of the patients we see at painPRO are seeking treatment for injuries that were acquired from their desk related jobs.
Such injuries may be, but not limited to upper trapezius soreness, neck pain, shoulder impingement syndrome, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), wrist tendinopathy, mid back pain, low back pain, hip dysfunction/malalignment or pain. Why do these injuries happen? Is it because of our ‘bad’ posture? The short answer is, no.
Sitting at your desk with a hunched posture, having your neck turned to read a document as you type or holding a phone between your ear and shoulder are bad habits for your body but, if done for a short period of time will not cause an injury. Of course, performing a task in a neutral posture allows us to perform the task with less discomfort and for a longer duration of time.
The problem arises when we don’t move for extended periods of time, or longer than 45 to 60 minutes. What this means is, any posture for a long duration can have a negative impact on our body, even if it is in a neutral posture.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to have your desk area assessed by an ergonomic specialist this may be something to request from your employer. Kinesiologists at painPRO are able to visit and adjust your workspace based on your job demands.
Fatigue and Posture
Let’s revisit your posture. Has it changed? Fatigue is a big factor. Fatigue is a point when our muscles are not strong enough to maintain an endurance activity such as sitting for as long as we do. So yes, strengthening the right muscles in the proper way is very important and can help prevent musculoskeletal disorders that may arise. Here are some super easy exercises that you can do while sitting at your desk right now.
When working already fatigued muscles, it can lead to muscles being strained. Low/mid-back, neck and forearm strains are fairly common for desk workers. It is common to continue working while in postures that are not so ideal. We may not feel anything at the moment, but repetition has a funny way of accumulating strain on our bodies until one day it hits you.
Work-Related Desk Injury Prevention
So, what else can we do to prevent these work-related desk injuries?
- Postural exercises as mentioned.
- Proper ergonomic setup.
- Don’t make anything on your desk permanent, move things around every few days so that your posture is constantly changing.
- Take breaks every 30-45 minutes to move around e.g. get up to use the washroom, stretch/strengthen exercises, take the dog out for a walk or get a cup of coffee and distract someone for a minute.
If working at your desk is causing you some discomfort, try to make some changes. If it still bothers you after a few days we at painPRO are here to help.