Is sitting behind your desk all day good for your posture? That all depends on if it is causing you pain and stiffness. Sitting in the same position for countless hours a day is not ideal and will often lead to neck, shoulder and back problems, including pain, discomfort and headaches. There are the lucky few who do not suffer from any negative symptoms from a day sitting at the computer, but over time, the body will start to shorten certain muscles and become weak in others, which will eventually lead to an imbalance, creating poor posture and discomfort.
I often see people once they have hit the pain and discomfort stage but there are many things you can do to prevent getting to this stage.
Some key prevention tips to avoid postural pain
- Ensure your workstation is set up correctly. The following video by UNSW is a great guide - https://safety.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/videos/workstation.mp4
- Move! The worst this you can do is stay seated for hours on end. Change your posture every 20min and get up and move around every hour. Put a timer at your desk as a reminder. Take phone calls standing, get a small water bottle which needs filling each hour, walk to a colleague's desk to speak with them rather than email or calling.
- Stretch the tight muscles (normally the anterior muscles) - neck flexors, pectorals (chest muscles), hip flexors.
- Strengthen the weak muscles (normally the posterior muscles) - rotator cuff, trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior and also the deep flexor neck muscles.
Can I fix my bad posture?
This can depend on a few factors, including age, occupation and willingness to stick to a program. The older we get the more our postural changes become harder to change; the muscles and tendons become short and tight. Add a sedentary job to the mix and you can see the challenge for this individual in changing their posture. The good news is with a suitable exercise program, including specific strengthening and stretching exercises along with the appropriate treatment can eventually assist in postural changes.
Exercises for adjusting posture imbalances.
It's important to see a qualified therapist or exercise physiologist before embarking on a specific strength program but there are some easy stretches that can be done at your desk during those 30-60min breaks. One of the most effective postural exercises is the Bruggers Postural Relief position. This exercise helps reverse the tendency to slouch or slump and done repeatedly over time will become a new learned postural position allowing you to start to sit and stand straighter.
Bruggers Postural Relief position
- Start by sitting or standing up straight.
- Roll your shoulders back and down.
- Fully straighten your elbow, wrists and fingers and bring your whole arms back behind your body. Gently arch through your middle spine by pushing out your chest. Make sure you’re moving through your middle back and not your lower back.
- Squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades together.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds.
- Repeat every 60min throughout the day, the more you do this the more natural it will become part of your everyday posture.