Sitting for hours on end is a common problem for all desk based workers and finding the right posture is key. Here are some top tips to keep your back healthy and strong.
Posture is key
How you sit on the chair is the most important factor. The optimal sitting position is shown below:
Invest in your chair
The importance of extremely comfy and ergonomically dazzling chairs is generally exaggerated. There is simply no such thing as a perfect chair: your body isn’t comfortable with any position for hours at a time. The problem isn’t necessarily the position that your body is in, but the lack of motion and variety of stimulation.
A comfortable, supportive chair is good but it still does not take away from the fact that you need to take microbreaks to mobilize your spine in order to avoid stiffness and back and neck pain.
The best chair is two or three quite different chairs used in rotation, including or used in conjunction with sitting on a fitness ball.
To keep your back healthy and prevent tissue contraction you need repeated, rhythmic elongation and contraction of muscle tissue, i.e. mobilization. Here’s how:
- Stand and stretch your arms over your head.
- Stretch one then the other arm up towards the ceiling in a rhythmic way, whilst making sure you don’t over extend your spine.
- Stand on tip toes a few times.
- Do these ten times in a row a few times a day.
This elongation of the spine is effective preventative health care and helps to relieve the pressure on the discs and allows the neck to resume its neutral position.
How much mobilizing is enough?
Actually, it doesn’t take all that much. An adequate antidote for an hour of sitting is approximately five minutes of mobilizing – although you are better off getting up every twenty minutes, particularly when you have back or neck pain to start with.
It’s not hard to counteract the effects of an hour of sitting with a few well-chosen exercises. If you make a point of flexing and using the muscles that are most needful, it really doesn’t take much to undo the damage.
Am I better off standing?
Standing to work has been gaining popularity as an answer to the perils of sitting. Standing is not without problems though and unless you are in a neutral position, standing for too long will give you muscle and joint aches too.
It is more tiring, it has been said to increase the risks of carotid atherosclerosis because of the additional load on the circulatory system, and it also increases the risks of varicose veins, so standing all day is unhealthy. The performance of many fine motor skills also is less good when people stand rather than sit.
The conclusion to various studies into the benefits of standing over sitting to work was that it is better to mainly sit to work but get up and mobilise regularly… The answer is to build movement variety into the normal workday.
Monitors and phones
Always ensure your monitor is at a perfect height and you are looking straight ahead while working. If you are constantly looking down or up, it will put strain on your neck muscles. You can find stands to adjust the height of your monitor (or a pack of paper generally does the trick!).
Never ever cradle the phone between your ear and your shoulder as you will put significant strain on your neck and will give you headaches. Always hold it in your hand or invest in a head set.
Take these simple preventative measures in order to reduce back pain, stiffness, headaches and neck pain from developing – you spend a long time at work and you need to be pain free to concentrate effectively.
A few minutes every hour will help your productivity so thinking you can’t make time may result in less effective work being done!