Our digital age offers a wealth of opportunities to work in new ways in a global marketplace, but the technology that is great for business isn’t necessarily good for our posture. Days, weeks, and months spent slouched in front of a computer can strain our backs, necks, and wrists. Over time, the damage of poor posture adds up, and can eventually lead to strain or injury.
Minnesota Occupational Health (MOH) ergonomist Sue Unger has some suggestions to help us maintain good posture as we work at our computer, and prevent posture-based injuries in the future.
“There’s not a single solution for everyone,” Sue explains. “Age and other factors make each of us structurally unique. However, there are some general guidelines that everyone can follow to maintain good posture in front of a computer.”
- Avoid slouching as you work by holding your spine upright and maintaining activation of your deep core muscles through your abdomen.
- When you are seated, have your knees bent to approximately 90 degrees.
- Be aware of your shoulders. Don’t elevate your shoulders and let them creep up toward your ears, and don’t let your shoulder blades roll forward.
- Keep your head from coming forward into a “turtle head” position. You may not have the endurance to keep an absolutely straight line from spine through neck and head all day, but regularly check your posture and correct it so that you are sitting in more of a straight line.
- Bend and hold your arms at around a 90-degree angle as you type.
- Elevate your site line to your computer screen. The distance from eyes to screen should be comfortable (so you aren’t tempted to push your head forward) and you shouldn’t feel that you are straining to look up or down to see the screen. Your computer should be positioned at or slightly below eye level.
The chair you sit in as you work matters, but that doesn’t mean that sitting on a balance ball is your best bet. “A ball can help if used properly,” says Sue, “but just because you are sitting on a ball doesn’t mean you have excellent posture. If a ball helps you to activate the abdominals and the deepest layer of your core throughout the day, that can certainly be helpful. I teach people to be even more active in the process of posture.”
Finally, Sue recommends frequent breaks from your desk. Every 30 to 45 minutes, get up, move, stretch, and interrupt your static posture. “I treat a lot of people with injured or healing knees,” says Sue. “Sitting for a long period of time is not helpful for these people. When you feel like you are getting stiff or achy, it means you should change position. Do some stretches, push your shoulders back, get in a few small squats and knee bends. These are preventive measures that healthy people can take to stay strong and limber.”