So many of us spend our entire working day sitting down in front of a computer. We often only become aware of our posture as we begin to get tired. Our neck and lower back start to ache, prompting us to sit up straighter only to catch ourselves slumping again minutes later.
Most people I treat in my clinic come to see me with acute neck and shoulder tension, migraines and headaches purely as a result of this problem. Getting a regular massage is a great way to relieve the stress and tension, but what can you do to pro-actively minimize the fatigue and strain on your body?
I spoke to Ann Dragon of North Perth Yoga Room for some specific advice on how to manage this very common problem for so many people at work.
I started by asking Ann,
Is it possible to maintain good posture all day at work while sitting in front of the computer?
Maintaining good posture whilst in front of a computer all day is possible.
As with most things we want to achieve creating a plan to get there is a good place to start.
I know, it sounds a little weird, planning to sit up straight!
However, spending a few minutes to devise a strategy around how you manage the postural load placed on your neck and lower back muscles whilst you’re at work may save plenty of time and money for you and/or your employer in the future.
Is awareness of my posture enough or do I need to build strength/excercise to support my posture also?
Awareness is a great place to start, deploying a plan is the next step. The plan may incorporate some strength and conditioning exercises that tone the abdominal area. A relatively easy exercise is to lay on your back, with your buttocks about 30cms from a wall. With your legs resting upon the wall, soles of your feet facing the ceiling, arms by the side of your hips with palms facing down. From this position, simply bring on leg away from the wall until your heel is vertically atop your hip, pressing the palms downwards to stabilse your pelvic region and lower back, hold the leg away from the wall for 6 breaths, then return it to the wall and repeat the same movement with the other leg. How many reps you do is up to you. This exercise tones the back muscles. Avoid holding your breath when doing this exercise. Also, try not to harden your abdominal muscles as this also constricts your breathing. Use a towel to support your head and neck so that they are slightly higher off the ground than the height of your shoulders.
Is it healthy to be in front of the computer, sitting down all day?
No, and this is where your plan kicks in. Schedule regular intervals during the time you’re in front of the computer where you make it a point to stand up and move around. Take a walk around your work station. It doesn’t have more than a few steps. You could set up this regular interval/prompt within your computer’s calender of events or on your phone. If you know you’ve got a full day in front the computer, then at least once per hour, schedule a stand up/walk around interval.
I get so busy and stressed with work I dont have time to stop and think about how my posture is…what am i supposed to do?
Knowing this about yourself is great as its all the more reason to deploy your plan…then you won’t have to stop and think…your regular interval prompt should sound and remind you that its important to manage the postural load being placed on your back and neck muscles.
If standing up and moving around for a short period is just not possible, then a simple twist of your spine whilst sitting at the desk works wonders to relieve the load on your back muscles. To do this twist, sit right to the front of your chair seat so that your knees touch touch together. Then take your right hand and hold the outer edge of your right knee. Place your left behind you upon the seat. Turn your waist, then chest, then shoulders, neck and head to left. Try to keep your head in the centre, straight above the base of your spine, rather than drooping it fwd or leaning it back.
Keep turning for 6 breaths. Again, let your breath flow easily. You’ll find turning comes easier when you breathe out. So turn a little more if you can whilst breathing out. Once you’ve done your six breaths return to face forward to the desk then repeat on the opposite side.
What things can I do to help be aware of how my posture is during the day?
Plan to be aware of it. Just like we plan for our afternoon cup of tea (which for me is usually around 3:30pm most days) spend a moment to be aware of how your body is feeling.
Another really simple exercise which can again be done whilst seated at the desk, or whilst standing, is to interlock the fingers then turning the palms to face away from you and raising the interlocked hands up over your head so that your arms are roughly in line with your ears. Keep your head straight by keeping your eyes looking at eye level straight in front. Hold the arms up for six breaths then lower them change the interlock so the other little finger is at the bottom and raise your arms again. You could even turn your body (as described above) to both sides.
Thanks Ann. Some great practical advice.
For more information on specific excercises to support good posture and yoga classes, contact Ann at North Perth Yoga Room
Check out this video for a quick and easy demonstration of the excercises already mentioned plus a couple extra thrown in as well!