Although most understand that labor intensive job roles put a strain on one’s body, people often ignore the subtle signs your body gives when sitting all day, five or more days each week. Even with those working from home throughout the duration of social distancing protocols, have you recently experienced an unexplainable middle or lower back pain? When was the last time you assessed both your sitting and standing posture?
Did you know that your posture, if left unchecked, can encourage certain chronic pain and problems including osteoporosis, arthritis, bone spurs, and muscle spasms? Therefore, correcting your posture now is especially important regardless if you continue to work from home or return to the office. In the content below, we explore five common posture mistakes and discuss stretches and exercises to remedy your posture and alleviate back pain.
POSTURE MISTAKE #1: NOT MOVING AROUND ENOUGH
Many medical experts agree that one of the greatest posture mistakes one can make is remaining in the same position for too long. Therefore, whether you are sitting or standing at your desk, looking down towards a mobile device, or curled up on the couch, staying static in any of those positions for too long may result in future pain and discomfort.
The Remedy: Stay Active Throughout the Day
The ideal remedy would be to move around routinely and continually or stretch in or near your workspace once every half hour. Additionally, be sure to adjust your seated or standing position to prevent stiffening your neck and back.
To help remind you to move around, consider setting an alarm on your phone or desktop to get up and move around, even if only for a quick minute. Alternatively, you may utilize activity monitors and trackers such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch to set hourly, daily, and weekly exercise goals.
POSTURE MISTAKE #2: SLOUCHING FORWARD IN YOUR CHAIR
Slouching is a subtle posture infraction that people, oftentimes, do not notice falling susceptible to it. Quickly and silently, slouching forward creates a slippery slope towards other posture issues as it exaggerates your upper spine’s curve, tilts your head and neck, and may even result in tilting your pelvis.
Did you know that slouching also negatively impacts your oxygen intake? It limits how much the lungs can expand and therefore, decreases lung capacity. Over time, you could experience heart and respiratory health issues.
The Remedy: Straighten Your Spine Accordingly
Therefore, begin monitoring your posture while sitting and standing. Focus on lengthening your spine and relaxing your shoulders to a relaxed position. However, avoid overcorrecting your posture by sticking out your chest or stomach.
POSTURE MISTAKE #3: “TEXT NECK”
This posture “faux pas” is a common offense. Everywhere you look, you can quickly notice people staring down at their phones or other electronic devices. However, most fail to realize the damage they are causing to their neck and spine. Over time, your body can resort to a hunched back to accommodate the long-term poor posture.
As the average weight of a human head lies between 10 and 11 pounds, any odd position you move your head can affect the rest of your spine and created damaging tension. The shape of your spine naturally and perfectly supports your head and body. However, in the event of a misalignment, the rest of your spine must adjust and support the unbalanced weight. Therefore, working on computers or texting on your phone repeatedly can cause damaging degeneration to your spine if left long-term and without postural correction.
The Remedy: Lift Devices to Eye Level
To begin working on breaking the poor posture habit of “text neck,” start holding your head up and straight with your natural line of sight. For example, your sight should be level to the ground beneath you. Additionally, bring your phone up towards your face to see the screen without looking down.
In the context of working from home, find a way to raise your monitor screen to be eye-level with you. This can be done by stacking books beneath your laptop or by purchasing an adjustable monitor stand. Additionally, consider increasing the zoom percentage on your monitor to prevent leaning in when reading off the screen.
To help correct “text neck” or a hunched back, we recommend completing upper back, neck, and rear shoulder strengthening exercises, chest stretches, and neck posture drills.
Below are three simple exercises to help correct a hunched back.
- gently lengthening your neck upwards as you tuck in your chin
- seated rows in a gym or pull-ups
- chest stretches
POSTURE MISTAKE #4: USING YOUR COUCH DURING WORK
We understand that those who work from home may not have multiple seating selections to work with during this time of social distancing. However, as most couches offer insufficient or improper ergonomic support, using your couch during work hours will quickly cause a strain to your body if not practicing correct posture. When using laptops, phones, tablets, or other electronic devices, people tend to succumb to the aforementioned “text neck” and crane our slouch their body to better read what appears on their screen. Therefore, your body can adopt an unnatural and non-ergonomic position that later results in neck and back pain.
The Remedy: Adjust Seating Positions and Alternate with Different Seating Options
If you remember to switch your body’s position occasionally, curling up on the couch in a comfortable position is not entirely damaging to your posture. However, while you complete your workday, try utilizing different seating options such as a dining chair or another structured seat to alternate with sitting on the couch if possible. Furthermore, while sitting on the couch during work hours, try to monitor your posture and avoid slouching or hunching over.
POSTURE MISTAKE #5: SLEEPING IN THE WRONG POSITION
Aside from working a typical 40-hour work week, sleep typically consumes the second most time in your day. Therefore, it is imperative to assess and try to improve your sleeping posture habits. Are you an avid stomach sleeper? Unfortunately, sleeping on your stomach is notorious for disrupting your spine’s alignment and straining your neck and lower back, despite it not causing you any immediate pain.
The Remedy: Align Your Body Before Bed
Although it feels impossible to control your body’s posture as you sleep, you can set the posture right before falling asleep. Ideally, set your spine straight while resting in your bed, just how you would maintain correct posture while standing and sitting. While we understand that old habits take time to be replaced with new ones, continue working towards maintaining proper posture as you rest.
If opting to sleep on your back, utilize a pillow under your knees to properly elevate your spine and hips. Alternatively, when choosing to sleep on your side, rest with a pillow between your legs to effectively align your joints and spine. If affordable, consider purchasing a firmer mattress to properly support your body as you rest.
WHEN IN DOUBT, MCR HEALTH WILL HELP YOU OUT
We understand that sometimes, adjusting your posture will not take away your back pain and other symptoms. Therefore, as a great way to manage any sudden, long-term, or extreme back pain, visit a primary care physician or an orthopedic doctor to assess your body’s current condition and determine next steps for pain management and remediation.
At MCR Health, we are devoted to providing excellent medical care for you and your loved ones as we help assess your chronic back pain and strategize your personalized treatment plan. Contact us today to see how we can best service you with your chronic pain or other illness.