Do you slouch in your office chair at work? It’s something we all do. Do you stand up at 5 P.M. and feel like your back resembles a question mark?
If you answered yes to these questions, you are part of a growing group of people who experience postural problems from working in an office. Studies have shown that bad posture can increase feelings of depression, zap your energy, and cut off your circulation. Couple that with sitting for long periods of time, and you’ve got a health hazard on your hands.
Slouching all day in an office chair forces your chest muscles to tighten, which pulls your spine forward and rotates your shoulders inward, while at the same time weakening the muscles of your upper back that aid in posture. Not only do you start looking like a hunchback, but you also may experience pain in your neck, lower back, and even arms and legs.
Thankfully, there are plenty of little tricks you can use to improve your posture gradually.
- MONITOR POSITION: You should be able to sit straight in front of your computer and not have to turn from side to side to access it. The top half of the monitor should be in line with your eye height.
- DISTANCE FROM MONITOR: Keep your arms and elbows close to your body and parallel to the floor. You should not have to reach forward to use your keyboard. Try sitting about 18 inches from your computer screen.
- NECK: If you find yourself cradling your phone between your shoulder and chin so you can type and talk at the same time, switch to a headset, or use a speaker phone. Also, be careful to not protrude your neck forward while looking at the computer screen. Try keeping your ear in line with your shoulder.
- SHOULDERS: Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
- BACK: Sit with your back pushed to the back of the chair with some form of lower back support between you and the chair back.
- ELBOWS and WRISTS: While typing, elbows should be at a 90-degree angle from your body, and your wrists and hands should be in a straight line. Make sure not to place stress on your wrists – keep them in a neutral position, not arched or bent. Have the keyboard and mouse near each other and at the same height as your elbows.
- LEGS: When you’re sitting, your hips/thighs should be parallel to the ground or a little higher than your knees. Also, you don’t want the end of chair hitting the back of your knees—make sure to leave a little gap.
- FEET: Feet should touch the ground and lay flat on the floor. Sitting cross-legged or on one leg can lead to slouching. If your feet cannot touch the floor, try using a footrest or box.
Remember to give yourself breaks after you have been sitting for an extended period of time. Get up and move around regularly throughout the day. For every hour you work at your desk, give yourself several 1-2 minute breaks. Take a quick walk around the office, grab some water, chat with a coworker, or at least stand up and stretch.
If you are experiencing back pain or other muscle or bone problems, contact Dr. Wesley Johnson for a consultation.