Improve your posture at work to avoid back strain
Just had this question asked in my clinic that I wanted to share with you. It’s a common question I often get asked about posture.
“Paul, I’ve recently had repetitive strain injury from work and although I’ve been given a wrist rest for when I’m on the computer, I still seem to suffer from bad posture. What would help improve my posture at work …” – Clare, 49, Hartlepool.
A lot of people underestimate the power of great posture and the advantages it can provide to your lifestyle. Think of it in this way, a lot of your time is spent at work, but if you have bad posture throughout your day, it can have a serious effect. Some people can spend hours at a desk or stood up at work and them hours of bad posture can add up to something serious. Here’s a few ways to have better posture and make it a healthy habit in your lifestyle.
The first thing I’d recommend is to keep your body in alignment. If you have an office job then adjust your seating if sat down for a long period. Remember the chair’s features are there for a reason, to make you feel supported. Sit up straight and align the ears, shoulders and hips in one vertical line. Sometimes, depending on how long you are sat for, even if you are sitting in a good position, it can feel tiring. If this is the case, then try shifting towards the front of your seat with a straight back from time to time. This can help ease back muscles.
If, however, you stand up at work, then standing straight really does help. I know at times it can feel like a relief to rest your body weight on one leg whilst resting the rest of your body on a desk or worktop. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately this is pretty much how not to stand. All you are doing is putting strain on particular muscles whilst you ‘rest’. When standing, distribute body weight evenly to the front, back and sides of the feet.
Another tip is to get up and move! The best time to get up and moving is when you start to feel your body slouch a little and find it hard to keep in a comfortable position.
If it’s possible, however, try and get up every half hour or so and do a few stretches or walk around for a few minutes. Think of it as a tea break for your body. After a few minutes you’ll come back to your desk refreshed and ready to start working.
If, like Clare, you are thinking of using posture-friendly props, then great. They are easy to find and can make a big difference. Clare decided to use a wrist rest to help ease her symptoms of repetitive strain injury.
However, there are other props which will help. Footrests, back supports and even a pillow can help ease back pain. Even positioning your computer screen to your natural resting eye position, will help avoid straining the neck with the head tilted forward.
If you don’t work in an office and are more outdoors, then even using correct footwear, bags and backpacks can help minimise back strain and can encourage good posture.
So my answer to Clare is this: yes, a prop can help ease pain from poor posture, but remember to put the other tips in place too.
The solution lies not only in putting these actions in place, but also implementing these in the long run. It may not be a quick fix but you will be easing your pain in the long-term. This is one of the healthy habits that everyone needs in their working day.
For more tips on easing back, neck and shoulder pain, go to www.paulgoughphysio.com/back-pain to pick up a free special report with top tips.