6 Ways To Improve Your Posture At Work

6 ways to improve your posture at work

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:

  1. 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!

4 Strategies to Improve Posture and Reduce Strain While Sitting

DC Neck Pain Physical Therapy Improve Posture

One of the most common reasons we see patients in our clinic is for neck and upper back pain. More often than not, these patients note that their symptoms are not the result of a specific injury, but rather have just gotten worse over time.

The main culprit? Sitting at work. Between slouched posture and the amount of time spent in a seated position (and often the combination of the two), many of our patients are set up to fail. Does that mean that if you sit at a desk all day that you’re destined to have pain? Not quite! Here are a few tips to reduce strain and prevent pain associated with sitting at work throughout the day.

#1: Stretch and Stretch Often

One of the first exercises we give most patients with neck pain is a simple Upper Trapezius Stretch. It helps reduce strain in several muscles in your neck and upper back (not just the upper traps), and is one of the most effective exercises patients can do on their own to help reduce neck pain and tightness.

 

To perform the stretch, sit up straight and tilt your head to one side (if you are having pain, tilt your head away from the painful/tight side). You can use the hand on that side of your body to help pull your head further to the side, increasing the amount of stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.

Another common exercise is a Chin Tuck.

 

Sit up straight, and focus your eyes forward while drawing your chin straight backward. You should be able to maintain your gaze on a specific point ahead of you while performing the exercise.

#2: Strengthen Your Shoulders

No, we’re not talking about bench press or biceps curls here. Sitting in a slouched position with your shoulders rounded forward puts many of the muscles attached to your shoulder blade on stretch. By sitting in that position for long periods of time, that stretched position causes these muscles to weaken. Strengthening your shoulder and scapular muscles will help to keep you in an upright position, as well as ward off any imbalances between your upper traps and the muscles in between your shoulder blades.

A quick note: while the exercises shown below utilize elastic bands (therabands), these are not required. Even doing the exercise without the band can help strengthen your shoulder and scapular muscles.

Exercise 1: Rows

 

Begin by keeping your shoulders relaxed. Pull your elbows backward and try to squeeze your shoulder blades together without letting them elevate. Hold for a second, and return to your resting position. After every few repetitions, take a deep breath to keep your shoulders relaxed. It may help to perform this exercise in front of a mirror at first to ensure your shoulders are not hiking up as you go.

Exercise 2: No Moneys

 

Stand with your elbows bent and your palms facing upward. Keeping your elbows tucked in by your side, rotate your hands outward. Finish the exercise by gently squeezing your shoulder blades together, and hold for a second, then return to your resting position.

#3: Address Your Work Station

There are a number of adjustments, both big and small, that one can do to help improve their posture and reduce strain throughout the work today. On the easier side of the spectrum, see if it is possible to raise your computer monitor to eye level. By raising the height of your monitor, it helps eliminate the amount of time you are looking down, easing stress on your neck and upper traps. It is also a good idea to lower your mouse and keyboard so that your shoulders can remain relaxed while working. Make sure to also keep your feet flat on the floor to help reduce strain on your lower back.

Work on a laptop? That makes for a tougher adjustment. Make sure to keep your arms and shoulders relaxed while working, and try to keep your head level while only focusing your eyes downward to look at your computer screen.

If you want to make bigger changes, ask your employer about an adjustable desk. Many companies are investing in adjustable, or “standing” desks so that their employees can change position throughout the day while remaining productive at work. These workstations aren’t for everyone, but can help you change your position and reset your posture more frequently during the day.

#4: Get Up and Move!

We find that many of our patients are able to achieve proper upright posture when asked. Many of them even note that they are diligent about finding this position when they first sit down. However, that only lasts for so long. We all tend to slouch forward when seated for long periods of time, whether we are focused on a specific project or taking a break from the grind of the work day.

No one maintains proper sitting posture 100% of the time, and it’s not good for anyone to sit for hours on end. One easy way to help combat slouched posture and stiffness from sitting for long periods is to get up and move around. It doesn’t need to be a long break — even standing up and stretching for 30 seconds or so can make a big difference in a person’s average posture throughout the day.

One strategy we often instruct our patients on is to set a timer. Everyone’s smartphone has one these days, so it’s easy to set a timer for 30 minutes or so and get up every time that goes off. Whether it’s to go to the restroom, get a drink, or do some of the exercises above, standing up and resetting your posture frequently is an easy way to reduce the strain and stiffness associated with sitting for long periods throughout the work day.


 

Dr. Rob Rogacki attended George Washington University where he earned his Doctor Of Physical Therapy. He believes in fostering patient independence throughout the rehab process, empowering patients to take control of their symptoms and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Learn more about Rob and the other Therapydia DC physical therapists.