We have a secret to share with you about posture. It’s the most proven, most effective, most coveted treatment for neck pain and low back pain. Ready for it?

Movement.

Woman moving and stretching at her desk without her shoes on

It really is that easy. Our bodies were designed to bend, twist, stand, run, sit, jump, squat, lie down, turn over. We were never designed to stay in one position for very long. So with all the valuable information you will learn below about how to sit, the best advice we can give you is to just keep moving!

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.” Newton’s First Law of Physics

But if you’re human like the rest of us and often have no choice but to sit at a desk for hours on end, we hope the information below will help you stay mobile and pain-free.

ERGONOMICS

Let us bust a myth for you. Perfect posture doesn’t exist. If you were to sit the way your Grandma wanted you to full time, you’d have just as much soreness than if you were slouching. So go ahead! Slouch for a little bit, but then sit up straight, then downward dog, then slouch again, then walk around. That’s perfect “posture.”

With that said, what does it mean to sit up straight? Let’s take a closer look.

The Anatomy of Posture

Your spine has a natural “S” curvature to it. The low back is slightly arched “lordotic” while the upper back is slightly curved “kyphotic”. The neck brings everything back into alignment with a return to the lordotic posture. This “S” alignment allows for maximum force distribution between your spinal discs, maintains space for your nerve roots, and keeps our spines both mobile and stable simultaneously.

cervical-vertebrae-spine

The Problem 

When we sit with poor posture, this “S” curve turns into a “C” shaped curvature and places stress on the spine. Abnormal pressure builds up in our discs, the space for our nerves begins to compress, and our joints start to tighten up. This can cause the onset of pain in your neck, shoulders, wrist and hand, low back, and result in visual fatigue, headache, and mental stress.

This all sounds so morbid, doesn’t it? But remember, our spines are extremely strong structures and can handle this stress for periods of time. But hour after hour, day after day, year after year, it starts to add up. At MovementX, we prefer prevention rather than treatment. So let’s get started…

correct posture

The Solution to Bad Work Posture

Man slumped at computer with bad posture

#1 Find the right desk equipment.

Not all desks or chairs are created equal. Here are some tips and tricks to follow when setting up your workstation.

 

Chair Set-Up

    • Height: Your chair height should be just high enough so that your feet are flat on the floor and your hips are just slightly elevated above your knees.
    • Back: The back of the chair should be perpendicular to the floor or very slightly tilted back (sorry, you don’t get to lean back and kick your feet up on this one). The curvature of the chair should support the low back enough so that it prevents you from slouching. Even those desk chairs that appear “ergonomic” often don’t have enough back support to hold us upright against our own bodyweight. If you don’t feel supported, look into one of these lumbar rolls.
    • Armrests: Not every chair requires arm rests, but if you will be typing for long periods of time, it’s not a bad idea to have them. If you do have armrests, they should be low enough that they support your elbows at a 90 degree angle and allow your shoulders to relax. Most importantly, they should be able to slide underneath your desk, allowing you to be close to your keyboard.

Hot Hint: So what if you are out to eat, or in class…and don’t have your really cool lumbar roll or ergonomic equipment on hand? Here’s the trick. Lean slightly forward and wedge your butt into the back of your chair. With your feet firmly on the ground, lean back gently on your chair. As a bonus, roll up a sweater and place it in the small of your back. Voila! A makeshift lumbar support.

 

Desk Set-Up

Your desk should be high enough to clear your knees at a minimum. If your desk is too tall, raise up your chair and place a footstool under the desk to support your feet. Most importantly, your desk height should support the most ergonomic monitor height and keyboard placement. Let’s dive in.

Monitor Set-Up

Your monitor should sit about two feet in front of your face. The top of the monitor should be just below eye level so your eyes are looking subtly down at the computer screen. Remember, your neck should remain in a neutral position while your eyes look down. For most people, their monitor height is too low and encourages an excess amount of flexion “bending” in the neck. This means you likely need a monitor stand or monitor arm to raise up your monitor to keep your neck in alignment.

Keyboard Set-Up

Let your arms hang naturally by your sides. Keep your elbows in place and bend your arms to a 90 degree angle. Take a deep breath and relax your upper traps (shoulder muscles). Now hold that relaxed position and place a keyboard directly under your hands. If you are like most people, your desk setup likely encourages you to reach forward to your keyboard. This can place excess stress on your muscles and tendons and lead to common desk injuries like carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, and pinched nerves. Don’t let your keyboard get away from you, look into a sliding keyboard tray or roll your chair up directly to your desk so you don’t have to reach or lean forward.

#2 Just keep moving!

Businesswoman dancing at wokr

Even if you have the perfect ergonomic setup, if your body isn’t moving, you’ll eventually develop aches and pains. That is why at MovementX, we have absolutely fallen in love with alternative desk and chair options, such as Fully’s standing desks and saddle chairs. When your pelvis can move while sitting, your lumbar spine moves, your neck is in healthier alignment all the while your spinal discs are getting precious blood flow and oxygen, your core muscles are activating, and you are passively burning calories.

It can be a challenge to know if your desk is ergonomically sound. It can be even harder to know what type of desk equipment to invest in if you are recovering from pain or injury. Call us today to set up an ergonomic assessment and equipment recommendation for you or your company!

Meet the Author…

Dr. Fred Gilbert, Physical therapist with MovementX in Arlington, VirginiaDr. Fred Gilbert jumping in a MovementX shirt
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Dr. Fred Gilbert is an orthopedic and vestibular physical therapist in Arlington, Virginia. He believes in a healthcare world beyond clinic walls and beyond the restraints of insurance. He provides customized care tailored to your interests. As a residency-trained orthopedic physical therapist Dr. Fred has years of experience empowering clients to adopt the movement mindset. Movement is the gateway to how we experience life – and when we move well the sky’s the limit.

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