As more people become tied to their computers, posture is often compromised. Though the importance of good posture is typically understated, long hours hovering over a computer, iPad, or smart phone, sets the stage for chronic health issues including lower back pain, reduced circulation and increased risk of disease. Fortunately, for those that spend 8 hours at a desk, there’s plenty you can do to offset the affects of a bad posture and improve your health.
The word posture comes from the Latin verb ponere, meaning “to put or place.” Posture is the position of the limbs or the carriage of the body as a whole. The body was designed to move however, long hours spent at a desk with shoulders and back rounding, head jetting forward triggers not only poor posture but health risks.
How Poor Posture Starts
Subluxation is a common term in the world of chiropractic. It is basically poor alignment of the spine which causes compression and ultimately weakens the organ systems of the body. One of the more common and dangerous forms of subluxation is forward head posture. Look at people around you working on their computers, texting or talking on the phone, you’ll likely see the majority in the forward head posture.
Rene Cailliet M.D., former director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Southern California wrote, “Head in forward posture can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment. Further, forward head posture (FHP) may result in the loss of 30% of vital lung capacity.”
According to Dr. Cailliet’s findings, reduced lung capacity can trigger asthma like symptoms, circulatory issues and heart disease.
Dr. Cailliet also writes that, “Decreased lung capacity as a result of FHP affects the body from effectively oxygenating cells. This can lead to asthmatic conditions, blood vessel problems and heart disease. The oxygen deficit affects the entire gastrointestinal system leading to altered nutrient absorption. Lowered oxygen states also decrease endorphin production turning the perception of non-painful sensation into pain experiences.”
Bottom line, poor posture, poor health.
Improving Posture and Health
If your office space is not conducive to good posture, it’s time to make a change. Simple changes in both environment and lifestyle can dramatically improve your posture thereby positively impacting your health. Following are some suggestions you can easily implement.
- Assess your current workspace. Being aware of how your office at home or work is set up needs to be assessed. If you’re currently experiencing back pain or neck pain or chronic fatigue, look at how your computer is set. Evaluating ergonomics at work and at home is the first step to instilling good posture and a user friendly workspace. Check out your options to set up a posture friendly work station.
- Get in Shape. One of the best ways you can improve your posture is by being physically fit. If you’re not currently active, perhaps now is a good time to reconnect with your New Year’s Resolutions. Regular strength training, especially with the upper body will help promote good posture by strengthening abdominal muscles and back muscles. Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get it Straight writes, “To improve posture long term, you need to strengthen muscles mid-back.” Novak recommends doing this exercise at your desk. Lift the bottom of your ribcage an inch or two off your hipbone, pulling your shoulder blades back and down. Work up to holding this for 10 minutes at a time. Try doing this a few times throughout your work day.
- Move more- A recent Australian study found that after the age of 25, every hour of lounging on the couch, watching television reduced the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. We know that long periods of sitting does little for ones health much less posture. Therefore, if you are stuck to a desk, getting up every 30 minutes can help to offset all the time you spend sitting.
- Awareness of body in alignment. Once you check out your work space, check your posture. Are you slouching? Rolling your shoulders forward? Good posture begins with sitting up straight and positioning the ears, shoulders, and hips in one vertical line (as mentioned in assessing workspace). You’ll likely find this doesn’t feel natural, but remember, you’ve likely spent years perfecting poor posture, so it may take awhile to get used to. Utilize the back support of an office chair to relieve the work of back muscles. Also, positions like crossed legs, leaning on your desk can promote poor posture. So, assess and change.
- Seek out ergonomic office chairs. Ergonomic office chairs with adjustable back support is ideal when sitting at a desk. Check out this page for more seating options. There are also some great posture accoutrements including footrests and portable lumbar back supports. Make sure that your computer screen is set at a natural, resting eye position to avoid neck strain or FHP.
Poor posture is often overlooked as a contributor to disease and obesity. Yet, correcting posture is as simple as assessing your work environment and making small changes. The changes you make with your posture today can improve your health and productivity tomorrow!