The upright human posture is a result of years of evolution, where we are built to run, hunt and forage. However, it seems that we are “de-evolving” these days with the countless hours spent crouch in front of the computer screen. This is made even worse with us having more “convenient” lifestyles as compared to before.
Luxury has given us the chance to be “chauffeured” right to our doorstep so we don’t need to walk and stand as much compared to our parent’s time. Technology has allowed us to fulfilled our daily needs with just a flick of a button on our mobile versus how we need to walk to grocery store or hunt for our food!
Do you have the forward head Posture?
The forward head posture we commonly see in office workers is now the new “standard” posture that we see in at the workplace. This posture puts a lot of strain on the muscles and ligaments at the neck, shoulder, back as well as the wrists. Imagine our poor muscles have to hold the weight of our head (about 5kg) for 8 hours daily! These postures commonly result in neck and back aches, even numbness and headaches in people.
If your neck and back pain comes on after you turn on your computer, it is an indication that it is time for you to change your sitting posture. Having the correct sitting posture will help reduce the stress on your neck and back. Even if you have been slouching your entire life, small adjustments can make a huge difference.
Here are some tips for you to sit up right
1. Adjusting your chair correctly
Slouching in your chair increases the pressure on the spinal discs and vertebrae in your low back. While seated, both legs should be level or slightly lower than the seat, with both feet flat on the ground.
If your feet are not supported on the floor, lower the height of your chair. However, if that makes you too low, use a footstool to elevate your feet. Your legs should be bent at a comfortable angle and the back of your knees should not be in contact with the chair.
2. Proper placement of your computer screen/ monitor
The distance of the monitor should be roughly 1 arm’s length away, allowing you to focus on the screen comfortably. The top of the screen should be just below eye level, with the centre of the screen at about shoulder height.
If you tend to refer to documents regularly as you type, it would be advisable for you to use a document holder placed close to the computer screen so you do not need to move your head back and forth too much between the screen and the document.
3. Use your keyboard safely
Place your keyboard at a distance where your forearms are almost horizontal and your wrists in neutral, ensuring that your hands and forearm are inline. Rest your wrist on a wrist support or on the edge of the table making sure that they are not bent up. Your elbows should be bent at a 90 degree angle and kept close to your body.
Try to learn how to type correctly and familiarizing yourself with the keyboard helps to reduce the stress and strain of your neck. Looking down at the keyboard then up at the computer screen constantly while typing increases the stress on your neck.
4. Reduce laptop/ hand phone use
Being lightweight and compact, the laptop is very easily accessible for most people.
However, using the laptop for prolonged periods of time causes one to bend their head forward, resulting in additional pressure on the neck and shoulder region which can cause pain and headaches in the region. If really required, consider propping your laptop with a book under if the screen is too low and also try to limit the usage of the laptop to no more than 30 minutes each sitting.
Similarly, using your hand phone to reply work emails for long periods of time results in one bending their head forward excessively, stressing their neck.
5. Take frequent breaks in between
Try taking a short 30 second break every 10-15 minutes to stop your work and stretch slightly. It would be even better if you could spare 1-2 minutes away from your computer after 45 minutes to 1 hour of work.
Such short breaks allow for a chance to stretch out the tight muscles and joints and to come out from a possible poor sitting posture while you were engrossed in your computer work.
If the above tips are still insufficient to help you with your neck/ back pain problems at work, you might want to consider consulting a physiotherapist for more specific help. Your physiotherapist will conduct postural analysis as part of their assessment and treatment for neck and back pain that arise from poor office ergonomics and posture. From the assessment, your physiotherapist might:
- Release tight and overused neck/shoulder/ back muscles with self-trigger point release techniques
- Correct your posture in sitting/ standing
- Recruitment, activation and strengthening of specific upper and lower back muscles
- Taping to increase postural awareness
As postural correction is a correction of habit, it might be useful if you have someone come along with you for your physiotherapy session. He/ she will be taught how to give you feedback on your posture, as well as some self-help techniques for your condition.