If you work at a desk all day, it’s almost too easy to get caught in the trap of being hunched over your computer for hours on end. It’s strange that this position comes so naturally to so many of us, since it’s pretty much the complete opposite of how we should be sitting, and does a real number on our spinal health.
Not to mention this damage to the spine actually clouds our mental clarity, thus making it much harder to focus at work, and actually decreasing our productivity. So, aside from the purely physical benefits of maintaining a good posture while sitting at your desk, there are tangible mental and practical benefits as well!
It’s probably time to make a change to your posture and/or seating situation if you experience frequent headaches, upper back pain and aches, or neck pain. All of these are symptoms of poor posture prolonged over time (say, an eight hour work day, five days a week, for years). Correct your posture at work with the tips and suggestions below, so you can excel at your profession and live a pain free life.
What You Can Do At Your Desk, Everyday
Proper posture is something that is developed over time, and it takes practice and diligence everyday to make sure it sticks. It does get easier – don’t worry! But first, you’ll have to consciously keep your body in proper alignment and do little exercises at your desk to encourage good posture long-term. Here are a few easy tips:
Line It Up
The best way to keep your posture healthy is by making small adjustments throughout the day that line up your spine if you feel it collapsing. The most common and easiest adjustment is to pull your shoulder blades back and down. Doing this will bring your chest forward and shoulders back, discouraging the “hunching” factor.
In the same breath, keep your ears in line with your shoulders. This discourages the neck from falling forward and thus prevents a lot of neck pain. It also helps blood flow from the rest of the body to the brain, increasing focus and clarity.
In terms of lower body alignment, try to uncross your legs as often as possible, or at the very least, keep them crossed on each side for equal amounts of time. Uncrossing is better, though. The reason for this is that it actually creates an uneven, off-kilter alignment between your hips and your lower spine, causing the rest of your spine to compensate by shifting the other way and thus, creating potential issues. Keep those feet flat on the floor, or see if you can make a makeshift footrest if that’s uncomfortable.
Once you feel secure enough with your posture and its natural maintenance, there are supplemental exercises you can do at your desk to encourage spinal health. Don’t worry – these aren’t the kind of exercises that will make you sweat through your work clothes. Just easy movements to encourage good posture!
- Shoulder shrugs: lift and lower your shoulders up to your ears and back to their natural placement 10-15 times. This loosens the muscles in the upper back and places the upper spinal column back in its natural alignment – but only if your feet are flat on the ground!
- Trunk twists: With feet flat on the ground, place your left hand on your right knee and look over your right shoulder, gently twisting the trunk of your body. Repeat on the other side. This strengthens and loosens abdominal muscles, allowing them to better support you and your proper posture.
In addition to these exercises, make sure you’re stretching out your body and your muscles as well to keep them moving, awake, and functioning properly. Some of the best stretches for proper posture include:
- Lift arms overhead, then gently tilt to one side, and then the other.
- “Hug” your arms around your body, right over left, and take three deep breaths. Repeat with left over right.
- Neck rolls: Gently rotate your neck in a full circle 3 times, then repeat on the other side.
The absolute best thing you can do for your body on a daily basis if you work at a desk job is to get up and move once an hour, or at the very least every other hour. This doesn’t have to be anything extreme, just a quick trip to the bathroom, the water cooler, the break room, outside for a minute, etc.
It’s also helpful to take the stairs. Any sort of added movement into your daily routine will help keep your body healthy and posture in line!
Switch Up Your Seat
Another easy way to improve your posture at work is by changing up your seating situation. Many people have old office chairs that offer little to no lumbar support, and the desk isn’t suited to an ideal wrist height. An easy way to fix this is by getting a lumbar support pillow, and an extra cushion to sit on. The back support pillow will naturally boost your spine and keep your lower body in line, and the cushion will lessen pressure and pain in your hips. If the cushion is high enough, it’ll also make it easier on your shoulders and wrists to be typing all day.
You can also see if your office will accommodate a new standing or adjustable desk. These are all the rage right now, because they allow you to work either standing up or sitting down, depending on what would make you feel more comfortable, with a quick swivel. They’re relatively expensive though, and you’ll still have to watch your posture if you’re working while standing anyway.
Last but certainly not least, the best way to keep a straight spine? See a chiropractor, of course! Regular chiropractic adjustments can make massive improvements in your posture in way less time than it would take going it alone. This is because chiropractors are trained to bring the spine back into its natural alignment with certain specialized techniques and treatments that correct any misalignments or malfunctions sometimes instantly. People often see improvements after just a couple of visits, and find it easier to maintain a healthy posture if they’re seeing a chiropractor regularly.
Why Should You Improve Your Posture?
Many people really underestimate the toll bad posture can take on your body because it’s a gradual process. Also, in the moment, poor posture might actually feel better than a straight, aligned back. This is actually a very bad sign, and an indication that your body has gotten used to misalignment. It may take longer, and more intense treatment and diligence, to bring it back in line if this is the case.
Poor posture is a problem because of the added unnatural pressure put onto your upper spinal column when you are “hunched over” your computer. When these vertebrae aren’t functioning properly, it makes it harder for the nervous system to function and communicate throughout the body properly. Since your nervous system is housed in the spinal column, you can see why this becomes a problem.
As mentioned above, this malfunction of the nervous system can cause mental fogginess, fatigue, lack of focus, and other mental issues. Physically, it can cut off your circulation, weaken your abdominal muscles, and cause muscle stiffness. These aren’t symptoms anyone in any profession would want, so it’s worth the time and investment of correcting your posture – no matter where you’re starting at – so that you can get back to work and feel better all around!
Improving your posture is a great step to take on the path to an overall healthier lifestyle. It regulates circulation throughout your body, increases muscle strength, and encourages mental clarity. For people who work a desk job especially, it can be too easy to fall into the trap of hunching over your computer for hours on end with little to no movement but the quick typing of your fingers. Strangely enough, this type of profession is one that would benefit the most from increased mental clarity! That’s why keeping your posture in line is so important here.
The best (and fastest) way to improve your posture is by seeing a chiropractor, but if you work at a desk job, there are a few tips and tricks that you can employ to help you naturally correct your posture over time as well. You can also try switching up your work area by getting a lumbar support seat or cushion, or even a standing/sitting desk if possible. Try implementing these changes into your daily work routine and see if you can feel a difference in your physical and mental health.
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.