Take a minute to think about what position you spend the majority of your time. Are you standing tall and proud in the perfect posture that brings a soldier to attention? Or are you sat down in a chair, likely stooped over with a posture not unlike the hunchback of Notre Dame? I’m afraid to say that the majority of the working world spend most of their time in the latter position.
Unfortunately we humans are simply not built for spending the majority of our time sitting on back sides; we have two legs designed for standing, walking, running, jumping, skipping, dancing. Our bodies adapt to the positions and movements that we make day in day out. So if we spend all day working with tools, we develop Blacksmith sized forearms and a vice like grip.
When we sit, our knees are bent, our hips are flexed, and more often than not we are slouched over, putting increased weight on our lower back with shoulders rounded forward and our chins poking out in front. Staying in this poor posture for a prolonged time leads to tight hamstrings and glutes, tight hips, an inactive and weak core, and tight shoulder capsules with weak and inactive rotator cuffs. Does any of the above sound familiar to you? These are traits that we see day in day out in our Physiotherapy clinic when people come in with lower back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain. Now you can understand why your teachers and your parents shouted at you as a child to sit up straight!
Now consider your work station. Is your computer monitor at an angle to you? Is your mouse a wide reach away? Do you have phone wedged between your shoulder and neck? Do any of these ring true for you? If so then you can add them as a garnish to the recipe for disaster that is resulted from incorrectly sitting at your desk.
So what can we do about this?
In an ideal world, it is best to move, move and then move some more. After sitting for 20 minutes, you should stand up and have a quick stretch or simply walk around, this allows your body to recalibrate itself and find the range of motion that each joint should normally have. However as it is near impossible to avoid periods of prolonged sitting, it is important that we know how to sit correctly and have a work station that is ergonomically designed for you.
In order to sit correctly, you have to be active as you sit. Sitting actively involves engaging your core muscles to about 20% of their maximum so that you can maintain a neutral spine. If you are struggling to imagine what 20% core muscle activation feels like, 0% is lying down in bed, 40% would be kicking a soccer ball, 60% would be jumping jacks, and 100% would be performing 100m sprint.
Engaging your core muscles does not come naturally to many people, it is far easier to switch them off and allow your spine and intervertebral discs to absorb the weight of gravity that is wanting to pull your body down. Some people over correct this by sitting up and over-arching your spine, this isn’t what you should be looking for. We want a neutral spine with a gentle arch at your lower back, so that a folded hand towel would sit comfortably between your back and the chair.
Lumbar supports can be very useful as a starting point and can be phased out as you begin to get a better understanding of how you should be sitting. Having a well-organized and comfortable work station will also allow you to maintain good sitting position. Ensure that your chair height is set so that both feet are placed flat on the ground, your monitor is at eye level, mouse within easy reach and a headset speaker if you’re on the phone all day long.
I hope that from reading this that you now have at least an awareness of your sitting posture and can recognise the importance of it. Remember to MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!
If you would like more in depth information on any of this; a postural assessment, stretching and mobility exercises or an office ergonomic assessment then feel free to email email@example.com or book an appointment via our reception.