Here our Physiotherapist at Gravity Fitness, Raheny, Dublin 5 Nic Lalor, details the tools you can use to be healthier at work: Move more, reduce sitting time and practice good posture.
Many people suffer from some form of neck or shoulder pain throughout their lives. This is becoming a more frequent compliant and with so many jobs now being desk based it is likely that neck and shoulder pain will continue to be more prevalent. Often people describe “shoulder pain” as their primary complaint and gesture to their lower neck. Most often the shoulder joint is perfect but the neck and scapula (shoulder blade) muscles are the pain causing areas. One of the major drivers of neck pain, along with prolonged phone use, is sitting posture and more specifically sitting duration. If you sit in a position for a short period of time and move out of it, it is unlikely to cause you any issues. If you sit in a bad position for a moderate amount of time, you’ll most likely be a little stiff and sore. But if you sit in any position, particularly a bad position, for a prolonged period of time you’re going to have persistent pain. So, what is a bad position? How long is a moderate amount of time? How do I know I’m in a bad position? Three key points are:
- Movement matters: being static isn’t good for our bodies. So being able to move and counter act your sitting position is very important. It is best to try move in the opposite direction to the way you’re sitting. For example, when we sit, we lean forward and slouch, bringing our shoulders closer together at the front. A good way to break this pattern is to move into an upright sitting position and reach overhead. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 10 seconds. There are lots of good resources to look to for guidance as an example check out the one below.
- Sitting duration matters: I don’t think it is good to sit for any longer than 40 mins continuously. Just stand up and roll your shoulders, reach as high into the air as you can, just move and break the continuous sitting cycle for a minute. If you’re able to do this multiple times a day, it will significantly help. If you think of it like this, you’re on a long car journey and you can’t stretch your legs. After 2 hours you get out and your legs are really stiff and sore so you move around and after a while you feel better. There was actually nothing wrong with your legs they just got sore from being compressed and not moving. Muscles and joints all over your body behave like this especially in your neck and back. So break up “the journey” take time to stand up and move.
- Sitting position/posture matters: like any skills you practice you need to do it consistently to get better. To practice good sitting posture means you’ll get better at it. Ideally you’d work off a desk top or at least have a docking station. You should be able to put your feet on the ground. You should not have you knees higher than your hips and your lower back should feel the support of the chair you’re sitting on. You don’t want to have your lower back rounded, it should be slightly arched or straight but not rounded. If you’ve these points in order your very close to having your posture in a good position. Try having the screen you’re looking at straight ahead of you if at all possible, if you’re looking down into a screen your putting a lot of pressure on the joints at the base of your scull/top of your neck. This video below has some really good tip.
Remember 1. Movement Matters 2. Sitting duration matters and 3. Sitting posture matters!