Ways to improve posture at work to prevent pain and discomfort

January 25, 2018

Poor work posture is a common occurrence, particularly in office based jobs, centred on heavy computer use. Given the long hours we commit to work; it is important to make sure that we are comfortable for the duration of our time there.

Good posture is all about keeping the body in alignment. When sitting, the ears should be aligned over the shoulders, the shoulders directly over the hips and finally the knees in a straight line with the ankles. This helps to ensure that the pressure that gravity places on the spine, is evenly distributed.

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Do I have poor posture at work?

If you have poor posture at work you may relate to some or all of the following:

  • Slouching your shoulders forward
  • Cradling your telephone with your shoulders
  • Leaning your head forwards
  • Over reaching with your arms
  • Twisting your body around
  • Adopting a fixed posture with no or limited movement throughout the day

If your pain and discomfort is worse at specific times, for example, it is bad after a hard day at work, but seems to go completely at the weekend, this suggests that it is linked to poor posture in your work environment. Similarly, the pain and discomfort may only occur when sitting at a particular desk or in a new office chair.

Why is poor posture at work a problem?

The human body is designed to be mobile, constantly on the go, therefore sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. Poor posture causes soreness and stiffness in our muscles as they work to stabilise and protect our spine and joints from injury.

The most common areas to feel pain related to bad work posture are:

  • the lower back
  • neck
  • shoulders
  • wrists

If left uncorrected, poor posture can lead to serious, chronic health problems for our neck, shoulders and back. It can also cause fatigue, discomfort and pain and increase the risk of injury. Some studies have also linked poor posture with the occurrence of headaches, breathing difficulties and stress and depression.

Sitting for too long without getting up and moving around, can be very bad for your general health. Sitting actually shortens your hip flexors and stretches out your glutes. Excessive sitting can stiffen these muscles, resulting in pain and discomfort on walking and risking long term injuries. Therefore, it is a good idea to incorporate 10 minutes of walking around for every hour that you spend sitting down.

Pain and discomfort caused by bad posture can also lead to a loss in work productivity and even result in absence through illness.

How can I improve my work posture?

Determining where your pain is localised can give you some indication as to how your posture can be improved. As an example, pain and tension in the lower neck and shoulders can be attributed to a slouched posture. Whilst a forward head posture can lead to excess strain being placed specifically on the neck.

Some options for improving your posture in the workplace include:

  • Invest in a good quality ergonomic chair and desk
  • Ensure any computer monitors (Visual Display Units) are level with your eye line
  • Keep all regularly used equipment within easy reach
  • Make sure that you take small breaks to mobilise yourself
  • Perform stretching exercises, for example, yoga to tone and strengthen your muscles
  • Focus on exactly how you are sitting and check regularly to ensure that your posture remains good

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