Neck and back pain are two of the most common diagnoses we treat here at Therapydia. While these symptoms are occasionally caused by an acute injury, more often than not they are simply the result of sitting for too long during the work day! Unfortunately, desk jobs are not going away anytime soon, so it is important to make sure that you are doing everything you can during the day to avoid the repeated stresses that bring so many into our clinic.
Here are a few handy tips to address your sitting posture during the work day:
Sit with your feet flat on the floor
By ensuring that your feet are on the floor and not hanging or crossed, you are taking stress off of your legs and hips that can translate up to your pelvis and back. Moving your feet around during the day is fine, but make sure that your chair is low enough that your entire foot (heel and toe) can rest comfortably on the ground without having to strain or stretch. If you cannot fully reach the floor, or can only touch with your toes, your chair is too high!
2. Make sure your lumbar spine is supported
Most modern office chairs offer a good amount of lumbar support, but not all chairs are perfect for the individual sitting in them. Some people require a bit more support, while others may find that their chair doesn’t provide the required support in the correct spot in their back. Use a small lumbar support (either a lumbar roll, available online, or a rolled up sweater) to help provide a bit more support in the small of your back.
3. Adjust your monitor to eye level
One of the most common causes of neck and upper back pain is related to the flexed posture that individuals sit in during the work day. Whether this is from looking down at our phones, reading, or just staring at the computer screen, individuals with neck pain often have it because of sustained flexed posture. This puts more strain on most of the structures in the neck, along with the upper traps. By moving your desktop monitor up to head level so that you can look straight forward while working, you can significantly help to reduce the amount of strain put on your neck during the work day.
4. Keep your arms in a resting position
Some desks are too tall for the person working at them, which can lead to neck and shoulder pain! Ideally, your arms should be resting by your side while typing and working at a computer, not elevated or extended out in front of you. If you find that your arms are away from your body, try to adjust your keyboard and mouse (either in their position on the desk or by using a keyboard tray) to help reduce neck and shoulder strain.
5. Make sure everything is in front of you
When someone complains of neck or back pain only on one side of their body, it can sometimes be related to a repeated movement or position that is only done to that side. In the office setting, that can be something as simple as turning to pick up the phone, look at a second monitor, or turning to talk to a coworker. If you find that you are repeatedly turning to just one side, it may be worth reconfiguring your office space to make sure that you are working in both directions, or better centered to complete your daily work tasks.
6. Get up regularly!
Even those who start with perfect upright posture don’t always stay there for long. Slouching happens, and the best way to avoid sticking in that position for long periods is to stand up frequently throughout the work day. One helpful tip we provide many patients is to set a timer for every 30-45 minutes, then get up when that timer goes off. Even standing for 10 to 15 seconds and performing a stretch or two can make a huge difference in your overall posture, and how you feel throughout the day!