Do you suffer from chronic neck and shoulder pain? What about headaches?
I suffered all of the above for almost 12 months. Then a co-worker put me onto an osteopath and it changed my life. The problem – poor posture. The main cause – sitting at a computer screen all day. The treatment – massage and manipulation from my osteopath combined with exercises to strengthen my shoulders.
The goal was to get my shoulders back instead of hunched over like they were. And of course, the key was not to derail all of my efforts by sitting hunched over at a computer screen all day. Here’s what I learnt about posture and workplace ergonomics during my recovery.
1. Never work from a laptop
This is a massive no no as you’ll spend all your time looking down at the screen. This is super bad for your neck. You want to be looking straight ahead at all times. If you have a laptop it should be plugged into a monitor and keyboard. Only work directly on your laptop for meetings or if you’re on the road. And keep your time spent on the laptop to a bare minimum.
2. Know the correct posture
Back straight, head straight and looking forward, your eye line should be towards the top of the monitor. Arms relaxed by your side at a 90-degree angle. If in doubt, it’s worth getting an ergonomics specialist in to make sure your setup is suited to you.
3. Sit close to the desk
If you have a corner style desk you need a chair without arm rests. Otherwise you won’t be able to get the chair underneath the desk and you’ll sit too far back. This causes you to lean into the computer screen to get a closer look. Both your back and neck will end up on an angle all day which causes neck strain and hence pain. If you have a straight desk, you can go for a chair with arm rests but it really comes down to personal preference.
4. Feet flat on the floor
If you’re a short ass like me, that means buying a footrest. Otherwise you’ll end up leaning forward to touch your feet to the ground without even realising. Leaning in is bad, it puts strain on your neck. And don’t cross your legs either.
5. Get a chair that swivels and has wheels
Turning to talk to a co-worker, answering the phone, or getting out of your seat can cause damage. Make sure you move your whole body with the chair, don’t just turn your neck.
It’s also important to think about your posture in your day to day life, not just when sitting at a computer. I’ve had to stop laying down on the couch as it gave me neck pain. Now I sit upright with a foot stool. Cleaning can be a problem too, namely scrubbing troublesome stains and mopping as I have a tendency to stick my neck out. But once you know these things you can correct them.
It took a good 12 months of treatment for me to notice a long-term benefit and not just a short-term fix. Whilst I’m good now, if I’m not vigilant about keeping my posture straight I start to feel twangs of pain. So it’s important to remember, maintaining good posture is a lifetime habit.