Is Your Posture Causing You Pain?
Last Updated on Thursday, 30 December 2010 10:42
You know the feeling – you stand up from your desk and have to stretch out your back. Your shoulders are tense and your wrists are stiff. The chances are you are not sitting correctly.
We are not designed to sit for long hours in one place. Yet many people work in jobs requiring them to be seated all day, usually in front of a computer. If this sounds like you, consider how much stress you are placing on your body. Unless you are sitting in an appropriately aligned position, at an ergonomic workstation you run the risk of ongoing pain and discomfort.
As postural muscles gravitate to the wrong position for many hours on a daily basis, they become chronically overworked. This causes them to become shorter and tighter, which then alters our spinal curvature. Muscle imbalance may cause degeneration of the upper and lower spine, back pain, neck pain, prolapsed discs, and thoracic (mid back) vertebrae that get stuck in flexion, causing other vertebrae to become too mobile. Trapped nerves, repetitive strain injuries, carpel tunnel syndrome and headaches... The list goes on.
Dr Waseem Bashir of the Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging at the University of Alberta Hospital, Canada, said: "Sitting in a sound anatomic position is essential, since the strain put on the spine and its associated ligaments over time can lead to pain, deformity and chronic illness."
Firstly make sure that your chair is the correct height. In the right sized chair there should be a 90-degree angle at your knees and your feet should be flat on the floor. A chair that is too high can cause compression behind the knees, resulting in numbness, slow circulation to the lower legs and swollen feet. On the other hand, if your chair is too low, it can flatten the back and block the sciatic nerve, leading to bulging discs, leg pain and numbness.
Conventional wisdom suggests that you should sit upright, with the ear, shoulder and hip all in line. However recent research suggests that sitting up straight may not be the best position for office workers. Scottish and Canadian researchers used a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show it places an unnecessary strain on your back.
They told the Radiological Society of North America that the best position in which to sit at is leaning back, at about 135 degrees.
Keyboard height is also important. Because this is a fixed position on most desks, adjust your chair so that your forearms are parallel to the floor and your hands are in a comfortable typing position.
Your shoulders should be relaxed and not elevated. Check that you are not leaning to one side or the other. Make sure that you are not too close or too far away from your screen. You need to be no closer than 14 inches but shouldn't be further away than 30 inches.