People with eight-hour workdays spend 50% of those days sitting at their desks. If you’ve formed improper sitting habits, they may cause poor posture. In turn, you may develop neck and back pain, muscle tension, and ultimately decreased mobility and a weakened core.
Being conscious of your desk posture is crucial to prevent or ease these symptoms. Practicing proper sitting posture is necessary to maintain good spinal health. Let’s look at how poor posture affects your health and what you can do to correct it.
What are the Side Effects of Bad Sitting Posture?
The following complications may develop over time due to sitting in the wrong position at your desk.
Back, Neck, & Shoulder Pain
Poor posture or slouching can hurt your neck, shoulders, upper back, and lower back. When sitting in a slouched posture, the shoulders tend to rotate internally, and the head shifts forward. This position puts more stress on your joints and tension on the muscles, resulting in pain and discomfort with time.
Sitting at your desk for too long can also negatively affect your body’s circulation. When sedentary, the body gets insufficient blood flow. The risk of developing varicose veins increases with prolonged sitting in poor posture.
When sitting with a healthy upright posture, the neck has a natural c-shaped curvature. But when sitting with poor posture, the head shifts forward, and the curvature is decreased. This change in the joint’s position can put tension and even “pinch” surrounding nerves. If this nerve irritation persists, it can become very painful.
A Misaligned Spine
Having an aligned spine is vital for your musculoskeletal system and joint health. The body likes symmetry, but many things can cause the development of asymmetry and misalignment. Exercising with poor form, past injuries, repetitive motions, and favoring a dominant side are a few common causes of imbalances in the spine.
A Curved Spine
The spine has natural curves in the neck, upper, and lower back. Bad desk posture can alter these curvatures, affecting your body and causing various problems. This change in the spinal column puts more stress and irritation on certain points of your vertebrae. This is the first phase of the degeneration process of the bones of your spine. Therefore, sitting with poor posture for extended periods will accelerate degeneration.
Headache & Jaw Pain
Poor posture can make you lean forward and protrude your chin. Clenching your jaw is also common with desk work, which contracts your facial muscles. This may cause headaches, TMJ pain, and even dental issues.
How Can You Improve Your Desk Posture?
If you’re looking to improve your sitting posture, here are some helpful ways to achieve it.
Know the Symptoms of Back Pain From Poor Ergonomics & Posture
Back pain resulting from poor ergonomics may be your issue if:
- It worsens at certain times of the day or week
- You feel neck pain that occasionally leads to headaches
- Pain that spreads to your upper and lower back and extremities
- You can decrease your discomfort when you change your sitting position
- Standing up and taking a break from sitting decreases your pain
- A new job, chair, or car causes it
- The pain is recurring
Knowing these warning signs will help you identify if a change to your work ergonomics is necessary and if your sitting posture could be improved.
Sit With An Aligned Body
Your chair’s features are key to an aligned body while sitting at your desk. Sit straight and align your ears, shoulders, and hips in a vertical line. Your chair may need to be lowered or raised to allow the feet to rest on the ground and thighs parallel to the floor.
Also, consider switching your sitting position, as your current position may tire you out. Try sitting at the edge of your chair with a straight back, then lean against its support. The latter ensures less pressure on your back muscles. Alternate both positions while seated.
Finally, learn about unbalanced postures and avoid them. Sitting with your legs crossed, leaning to one side, hunching your shoulders over, and tilting your head are all improper postures.
Ensure Your Forearms Are Parallel to the Floor
When your forearms are parallel to the floor, and on your desk, the joints of your upper limbs are less likely to become tense. Keep your keyboard and mouse close enough to your body to prevent overreaching. Otherwise, your shoulders will turn forward, causing rounded shoulders and upper back pain.
Keep Your Head In Position
A condition called forward head posture (FHP) occurs when your head and ears shift anteriorly to your body’s vertical midline. In contrast, when the head maintains a neutral posture, it aligns with your shoulders and midline. The back muscles of the neck function like a pulley system, and when the head shifts forward, these muscles need to work a lot harder to support the head’s weight.
This increase in demand and tension in the neck muscles is the most common cause of tension headaches.
Bending toward your computer screen for too long and crouching over your laptop or smartphone are common causes of FHP. Experts refer to the condition as “text neck” or “nerd neck” for these reasons. It is a common occurrence when muscles of the chest and anterior shoulders get tight, and upper back muscles get weak.
Symptoms associated with forward head posture include:
- Chronic neck pain
- Stiff neck muscles
- Decreased range of neck motion
- Back pain
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
- Numbness and tingling in the arms and hands
- Muscle spasms
To keep this condition from affecting your neck and back, you can test yourself to see if FHP is developing in your neck. Stand against a wall with your head, shoulders, hips, and feet on it. Then, move your arms up and down against the wall 10 times. Your body should stay against the wall throughout the exercise—otherwise, you’ll need to correct your posture.
Move Away From Your Desk
When your back and core muscles get fatigued, you tend to slouch, slump, or show other signs of poor posture. Ultimately, these positions can lead to a tense neck and back. Our advice: always change your position for a relaxed yet supportive sitting posture. You can start by standing for brief periods, stretching, or walking, before sitting again.
Frequent exercise is another effective way to improve your desk posture. Start by walking, swimming, or cycling to condition your body. You can also perform strengthening exercises for stronger back and core muscles. Exercise can help you correct your sitting posture by developing strong muscles that are conditioned to support your upright posture throughout the workday.
Adjust Your Computer Monitor’s Position
With your monitor in the wrong position, you’ll often look up or down, which can strain your neck. Over time, this can lead to or increase your risk of a strained or sprained neck, herniated disc, headache, TMJ, or other related injuries. Your monitor should be raised or lowered to a height at or just below eye level
Use Other Ergonomic Accessories
If you want to ease the pressure on your spine, consider getting supportive ergonomic accessories for your workstation. For chairs, opt for an ergonomic office chair and chairs with adjustable back support. Using a portable lumbar back support, towel, or small pillow is also great for supporting the natural curvature of your lower back.
Keep Your Spine Free to Move
When seated, you’ll want your body in a relaxed posture. Don’t tighten your muscles or set your body in an unnatural, tense stance that limits movement. Restricting your movements is ideal only if you’re currently experiencing back or neck pain and want to ease the pain.
Simply put, you can move your spine and its surrounding bones. The more you limit their motions, the more pain you’ll feel.
Consult a Chiropractor
Chiropractic adjustments can also help you correct your desk posture. Before the doctor performs any spinal adjustments, your chiropractor will examine your spine and joints for possible dysfunction and pain. They’ll use different techniques to realign your spine and address symptoms, improving your posture. Most chiropractors will adjust the affected joints with their hands to restore mobility and reduce tension and pain.
Additionally, your chiropractor will check if your body is showing signs of poor posture. They’ll help restore balance and symmetry to the body for good posture and more optimal function. After your examination, the chiropractor will recommend treatment based on your diagnosis, which usually includes specific procedures, exercise, and good nutrition to improve your posture and overall health.
Work Comfortably With Good Desk Posture
Proper sitting posture is important if you work at a desk for extended periods. You can maintain it or correct your current posture in different ways, from changing how you sit to getting chiropractic adjustments. These changes will help you keep your spine healthy, prevent musculoskeletal issues, and avoid pain and discomfort.
Looking for more ways to stay healthy? Get expert advice from the LifeClinic blog today.