Many of us are looking to live happier, healthier, more active lives. A great place to start for your overall well-being is to improve your posture. Your posture is the foundation for all of your movements. Think about it; how can you improve your health without a strong foundation (ie. posture)?
Poor posture develops over time and can likely be the cause of reoccurring episodes of neck, back, and shoulder pain. Luckily, your posture is within your control. With proper awareness and training of specific muscles, improving posture is an extremely attainable resolution.
Sitting has become an inevitable part of our day. In today’s world, many of us spend more than half of our work day in a seated position.1 Prolonged sitting is not only a risk factor for back pain,2 but various other health problems such as premature morbidity,3 cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.4 Ideally, sitting less and standing more is preferred to improve your overall health. Transitioning to a sit to stand desk can improve shoulder, neck, and back pain by 20-30%.5 Are you unable to have a sit to stand desk? Don’t panic; there are plenty of modifications to reduce wear and tear on your body while sitting.
If you are required to sit for long period of time being more aware of your posture is the first step toward success. I typically instruct patients to place “post it” notes at their work station reminding them to be posture conscious. Ideal sitting posture means no slumping or slouching. To do this, sit up straight with your feet placed flat on the floor. Your ears, shoulders, and hips should be aligned. Avoid crossing your legs, shifting your body weight to one side, or tilting your neck; as this feeds into an unbalanced posture. The goal is to maintain the normal curvature of the neck, upper, and lower back. Try placing a lumbar roll (or rolled towel) in the small of your back in line with your hips to provide additional support.
Remaining still in a static position fatigues muscles, making maintaining appropriate posture challenging. Changing positions frequently will prevent your core muscles from tiring. Stand up and move every 30 minutes. It is as simple as standing for a phone call, getting a drink of water, or walking to a co-workers desk instead of emailing them. Lunch time is a perfect time to change scenery and move from your desk. You may find a brisk walk around the office will keep you more alert, focused, and energized.
Proper set up of your work station, improved postural awareness, and selective stretching may be all you need to make your posture the best in the office!
1. Marshall S, Gyi D. Evidence of health risks from occupational sitting. Where do we stand? Am J Prev Med 2010;39(4):389-91.
2. Pronk NP, Katz AS, Lowry M, Payfer JR. Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project, 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110323.
3. Patel AV, Bernstein L, Deka A, Feigelson HS, Campbell PT, Gapstur SM, et al. Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am J Epidemiol 2010;172(4):419-29.
4. Inoue M, Yamamoto S, Kurahashi N, Iwasaki M, Sasazuki S, Tsugane S. Daily total physical activity level and total cancer risk in men and women: results from a large-scale population-based cohort study in Japan. Am J Epidemiol 2008;168(4):391-403.
5. Hedge, Alan. “Effects of an Electric Height- adjustable Worksurface on self-assessed musculoskeletal Discomfort and Productivity in Computer workers.” Cornell University Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Labroary (2004) 1-31.
6. Granata, KP, Marras WS. Cost-Benefit of muscle co-contraction in protecting against spinal instability. Spine 2000; 2-5:1398-404.