The average hours people spend at their desks are far from ideal. Our bodies were after all designed to move around: reach, run, turn, sit, stand, bend, walk... Certainly not just sit, sit, sit! It is important to take regular breaks from your desk (or any other position) and move a little but for now, we're looking at how to make the best of the situation where you are glued to that seat.
Common consequences of poor sitting posture includes, among others, back and neck pain, shoulder tightness, headaches and tingling or numbness. These symptoms develop in a response to the unnatural compression and stretching within the joints, ligaments, discs and muscles. The normal curve in the lower back is typically reversed which not only causes and aggravates lower back pain but it also places the shoulders and neck under severe pressure in their attempt to still control the head which has now moved significantly forward in relation to the rest of the body. The joint positions and muscle activation is therefore altered to a completely unnatural state which they are unable to cope with over an extended period of time.
My 7 Steps to an Ergonomic Desk is a simple guideline you can use to improve the layout of your desk but you can easily extend the basic principles to other parts of your life to optimize your sitting posture.
Step 1: Your chair should face your desk squarely. It may be tempting to shift the computer into a corner to work within limited space but be mindful of what you are subjecting your spine to when you are sitting turned to one side.
Step 2: Shift all the way back in your chair so that your buttocks or lower back meets up with the backrest. The back rest allows your back muscles to relax to some degree if you are in contact with the support.
Step 3: Maintain the slight curve in your lower back (like you have while standing up straight) and make sure that your chair's back rest supports your back in this position. If your chair can't adjust, you should seriously consider investing in a good chair which can - Talk to me if you aren't sure where to start looking for a good chair.
Step 4: While sitting, your seat must be at the correct height in relation to your desk that your forearms can rest horizontally in front of the keyboard. In this position, you allow your wrists to function with minimal strain.
Step 5: Ensure that your thighs are nicely supported on the chair. If the chair is too high or the seat is too big or small, you may feel pressure on your hamstrings from the edge of the seat which could lead to leg and back pain.
Step 6: Your feet should be flat on the floor. If your legs are too short and your chair can't lower enough, use a foot rest.
Step 7: Lastly, your eyes should be in line with the top edge of your screen to minimize the strain on your neck and your eyes will cope best if you are 40-70cm from the screen. Don't move closer to avoid getting glasses.
Every person is different and therefore, every desk setup should be made to fit. I hope these steps are exactly what you needed to start looking after your spine today!
Shoulder and Arm
Elbow and Forearm
Wrist and Hand
Upper Back and Chest
Hip and Thigh
Knee and Leg
Ankle and Foot
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