As we thought through topics that would be most helpful to share with our patients, one of the first that we identified was sitting at your desk/ computer without getting neck or upper back pain. Sounds simple enough, right? I’m guessing, though, that a good number of you (and your coworkers, family, and friends) experience pain caused by this very reason.

Maintaining correct posture is a great habit to develop as it contributes to your health, general well-being and quality of life. Think of the bony anatomy of a healthy body and you should generally notice alignment and symmetry. The (front/ back) curvature of a healthy spine should remain close to neutral through most of your day whether you are sitting, standing, working, playing, or even sleeping.

When standing in good posture, your ear, shoulder, hip, and heel should remain in the same plum line.  When you sitting or even squat or bend to get something off the floor, your feet will come out of that line, but the ear, shoulder, and hip should remain in the same line.

In the video below, Katie deomonstrates the proper sitting posture:

Our bodies were not created to sit in one static position for long periods of time, but for the majority of our culture, this is hard to avoid. Our bodies were created to be regularly active so when we force ourselves to sit stagnant for hours on end, certain parts of your body will be placed in great stress. Whether it is your job or lifestyle that calls you to be in this position, it is easy to sit lazy and slump into a forward bent. When we slip out of good posture and into one big “C-shape” curve from head to tail-bone, the muscles along the length of the spine beg you to sit up right… and your body communicates to you through pain.

As you begin feeling that pain, raise your chin up to the sky, open your chest, and stretch extending back. Refrain from tucking your chin and flexing forward as that can easily exacerbate the strain.

If your job or lifestyle does call you to sit for many hours a day, take a few seconds every half hour or hour to do a few simple extension exercises. When you’re done with your day of sitting, choose to take a quick walk to get your body moving and blood flowing. And while you are sitting, here are some key tips to think of so reduce pain:

  1. Use a seat that supports your back (low back especially) and creates just over a 90 degree angle between your trunk and your thighs.
  2. Allow the top of the monitor to be at or slightly below eye level
  3. If your screen creates a glare, you may find yourself straining to see what is on the computer and a screen cover would be a good investment.
  4. Place your monitor a little more than an arms distance in front of you.
  5. Allow feet to rest flat on the floor. If your legs are not long enough for that, create a footrest out of some books or a box.
  6. If typing from a document, place it on a stand at eye height near the computer screen.
  7. Only use a wrist-rest while resting, not typing, to reduce risk of impinging the nerves and tendons in your wrist. Maintain straight wrists in relation to forearms.
  8. Keep shoulders relaxed down and elbows at an appropriate angle to keep your wrists straight.
  9. Keep body, monitor, and keyboard in the same plane to decrease rotation.
  10. Avoid propping up your keyboard on its retractable feet. Although it’s easier to see the keys, it forces you to strain your wrist.
  11. Use a stable work station that won’t bounce or move around.
  12. Take frequent breaks throughout your day!!.

In addition to the postural keys, we recommend a few items that can aid in decreasing pain and increasing healthy posture. The first is very simple. I’ve been giving each of our new patients a few stickers to take with them (if you need some, just ask) so that they can be put in strategic places…  places that you spend a good amount of time in or places that you recognize being in when your pain presents. When you see the sticker, it should act as a reminder to sit up tweak some of those postural points, to drink more water, to bring your ears in line with your shoulders, or to do anything else that you are having trouble remembering to do.

One product we sell here at Compass that works to retrain the shoulder muscles to pull back into form. The Str8nUp is a spandex band in the infinity shape that hugs your shoulders wraps around your upper back. It is a rigid brace but rather it gently reminds the shoulders where they should stay. For more information you check out the video.

A third item that can help with good posture is the disc-o-sit. This is a air-filled disc that when sat on creates the feeling of sitting on an exercise ball. On it, you will initiate your core and hip muscles more than if on a static chair. Going further than that, you can do intentional exercises on it throughout your day. Here is my video showing ways to use the disc-o-sit.

Finally, we have a product called the McKenzie Roll. This pillow-like roll comes with a strap that keeps the roll on whatever chair you are using. Seeing that it is so light and small, it can easily be moved from your car to home to the office! When used correctly, the McKenzie Roll pushes forward on the low spine and causes you to sit with the lumbar spine neutral.

I know it can be overwhelming to make all these changes at once, so this month, identify a few areas that need to be modified and begin to make healthy changes. If you become confused or overwhelmed, feel free to email our staff with questions. We would love to help.