Many of our jobs in today’s society require us to sit for long periods of time, whether on the computer, on the phone, in meetings, etc. Not only is sitting or standing for long periods of time harmful to our bodies in general, but we are also often unaware of how we are holding our posture throughout the busy day. Sitting or standing with poor posture with your shoulders forward or hunched and your head forward places a tremendous amount of strain on the neck.
Our heads weigh approximately 8-12 pounds in a neutral position. If our head is forward from the rest of our spine, that weight increases, and our poor neck has to strain to hold that weight up all day. Even the slightest forward head position has been shown to more than double the of weight of the head on the neck. This position shortens and tightens the muscles in the back of the neck, shortens the muscles on the front of your chest, and lengthens and weakens the important postural muscles on the front of your neck and your upper back.
Proper posture and ergonomics are crucial to having a sustainable pain free life at work. Most of us spend well over half our life at our jobs and if we are not spending this time in a healthy position, it will add up quickly and become detrimental. Here are some helpful tips to healthy posture in the workplace.
For a sitting desk:
For a standing desk:
For standing desks, you may also consider getting a foot pad to stand on as this can significantly help reduce fatigue and stress through the body that can be caused by standing on hard surfaces.
Lastly, an important factor in preventing problems related to long periods of sitting or standing is to frequently move throughout the day. At a minimum of every hour, leave your work station to walk around and move your body for a few minutes.
Here is a good stretch you can do throughout the day to help reverse your typical desk posture and the muscle tightness that comes with this:
Stand in the corner of a room or in a door frame, have your elbows in line with your shoulders and gently step forward until a comfortable stretch is felt in the chest. Keep your head and neck in a long neutral position. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
Hannah Nicholson, PT, DPT