Sitting at your desk all day can be a tiring experience. After spending some time in front of a computer and a phone, it’s no wonder that most people complain about aches and pains afterward. If you spend extended periods of time in front of your desk each day, you may experience one of the most common problems facing office workers: bad posture. Sitting at your desk all day can be tiring. After spending some time in front of a computer and a phone, it’s no wonder that most people complain about aches and pains afterward. Your neck, back, shoulders, arms, hands and wrists are probably feeling the strain by now. The constant stress on these weak spots is known as postural strain.
What is postural strain and why does it happen?
Postural strain results from improper muscle tension when performing daily tasks while sitting. This may cause neck, back, shoulder and wrist pain. As you sit at your desk, your muscles, ligaments, and joints are under constant load. If you don’t maintain a proper posture, this strain can quickly increase the risk of injury and eventually, permanent joint damage. With time and repetition, postural strain can build up and lead to pain and discomfort. Meanwhile, it has also been found to negatively affect productivity, decrease quality of work, and increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Surprisingly, even if you take frequent standing breaks, if you sit down again, your muscles will relax and re-tense to the same degree as before. Over time, this cycle can wear you down.
How bad posture affects your body
When you sit slumped in a poorly designed office chair, you may notice that you’re not as active as you used to be. You might even feel lethargic or like you have a low energy level. Worse, you may also have joint pain or stiffness in your neck, back, shoulders, arms, hands and wrists. All those muscles you use when you walk, stand and perform everyday activities are now being put under stress. Over time, they can become fatigued and injured. If you’re sitting in an office chair all day, you could be experiencing one of these problems. You may also notice an increase in your stress levels, a decrease in confidence and an increase in depression. In extreme cases, you may start to feel anxious, angry or even suicidal.
5 Steps for improving your posture and preventing postural strain
- Sit up straight - In a properly designed office chair, your back should be straight; your upper back and head should be aligned with your spine. - Keep your chest lifted - It’s common to keep your chest slightly slumped when sitting in front of a computer or phone. You need to keep your core muscles engaged to avoid excessive strain on your lower back. - Support your head - Your neck should always be kept straight and aligned with your upper back. If you’re slumped in your chair, your head will be too, leading to excessive strain. - Keep your shoulders back - Your shoulders should be kept back and down while sitting. If they’re raised, they could be over stretching and putting excess strain on your arms and wrists. - Put your feet flat on the floor - Your feet should always be flat on the floor while sitting. This will prevent your knees from going into excessive flexion, which could cause joint damage.
Tips for standing desk users
- Take regular breaks - Sitting in front of your computer or phone all day is stressful. Bad posture and prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to strains and injuries. - Switch up your position - Often, sitting with your back straight and chest lifted is the most stressful position. Switching to a standing position will keep your muscles under less tension. - Don’t forget about your arms - While standing at your desk is a great way to reduce your risk of postural strain, you need to make sure you’re keeping your arms and wrists healthy too. - Keep your core engaged - Even if you’re standing, you need to keep your core engaged. This will prevent your lower back from getting overstretched and injured. - Keep your eyes on the screen - Your eyes should always be on the screen while you’re working. This will prevent you from wandering too much and keeping your eyes off the work surface.
Bad posture can affect your health and productivity. If you’re experiencing neck, back, shoulder, or wrist pain, you should see your doctor to rule out serious underlying conditions. Meanwhile, you can try to prevent these problems by improving your posture while sitting at your desk.