Posture Tips: How To Ease Aches and Pains At Work

Had this question asked in my clinic this week that I wanted to share with you (It’s a common question I often get asked about posture)…

‘Kim, 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?’ 

– Wendy, 48, Cupertino

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 doing whatever it is that you do, but if you have bad posture throughout your day, in the long run, it can have a serious effect.

Some people can spend hours either at a desk or stood up at work and them hours of having bad posture can add up to something serious if it is not dealt with.

Here’s a few ways to have better posture and ultimately, make it a healthy habit in your lifestyle.

This tip might seem quite obvious but the first thing I’d recommend is to keep your body straight. If you have an office job then adjust your seating if you are sitting down for a long period of time. Remember the chair’s features are there for a reason, to make you feel supported.

Sit up straight and adjust the chair so that it feels comfortable and supportive. Sometimes, depending on how long you sit, 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 sometimes help ease your back muscles and stop you from slouching.

If 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 while resting the rest of your body on a desk or worktop. Sound familiar? Unfortunately this is pretty much how not to stand. Ultimately all you are doing to your body is putting strain on particular muscles while you ‘rest’. When standing, make sure your body weight is spread evenly to the front, back and sides of the feet.

Another great tip is to get up (if you are not already) and move! Yes you could finish off that one last email but I think we both know that, that one email will lead to something else. As a result, you will not only be glued to your chair all day, but may end up putting more pressure on the neck and back.

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, try and get up from your chair every half an hour or so and do a few stretches or walk around for a few minutes. Think of it as a coffee break for your body. After a few minutes you’ll come back to your desk refreshed and ready to start working.

If like Wendy, you are thinking of using posture-friendly props, then great. They are easy to find and can make a big difference to your posture at work. As Wendy has done, she has decided to use a wrist rest to help ease her symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury.

However there are many other props that will help you at work. Footrests, back supports and even a pillow can help ease back pain. Even positioning your computer screen in level to your resting eye position, will help avoid straining the neck with the head tilted forward.

If you don’t work in an office and are based more outdoors, then even using correct footwear, bags and backpacks can help minimize back strain and can encourage good posture.

So my answer to Wendy 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 committing to these tips in the long term. 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.

Kim Gladfelter

Kim Gladfelter, PT, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT, is a physical therapist and owner of PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness in Los Altos, CA. Kim's facility has a complete wellness center, offering classes in Pilates, Yoga, Gyrotonic® and TRX suspension training, as well as special clinical programs for women’s health. Kim works with people aged 30-65+ on a daily basis and is an expert Columnist who writes health articles for the Los Altos Town Crier newspaper, professional newsletters and blogs nationwide. She also reaches out to the local community, support groups, schools, libraries and sports centers to advise and educate on body awareness and exercise for back pain.
Kim Gladfelter

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