Improving Your Posture at Work

Seven tips to help improve your posture at work

Occupations that require you to hold your body in a certain position for extended periods of time can lead to problems with your back and spine if you are not maintaining good, proper posture. For example, poor posture habits while sitting in an office chair, looking at a computer, driving or standing for long periods of time can easily become second nature. Spending a lot of time in these static positions leads to episodes of back pain that affect the support of your entire body and your spinal cord and nervous system. The good news is that the main factors affecting posture and ergonomics are completely within your ability to control and are not difficult to change.

Here are seven easy tips to help you improve your posture and ergonomics, especially if your occupation requires you to sit at a desk for long periods of time.

1. Know how to recognize the warning signs of back pain caused by poor posture

Back pain tends to worsen at certain times of day or week if it is the result of poor ergonomics and posture. For example, if you notice that pain comes on after a long day of sitting in an office chair in front of a computer but does not bother you during the weekends, it is likely that your posture is not optimal at your workstation. This issue needs to be corrected before more serious damage occurs.

2. Get up and move

Our muscles grow tired when we sit in a chair or stand for long periods of time. This causes us to slouch or slump over in an effort to allow the muscles to relax. Although you may perceive your muscles as more relaxed in this position, it actually puts extra pressure on the neck and back, which will lead to long-lasting pain. The best way to avoid this is to maintain a relaxed but supported posture and to change positions frequently. One good rule is to take a break from sitting in an office chair every hour for 10 minutes to stretch, stand or walk.

3. Keep your body in alignment while sitting and standing

Take advantage of your office chair’s features, especially if you have a fancy ergonomic one. Focus on sitting up straight and imagine aligning your ears, shoulders and hips in one vertical line. Remember that any single position, even a good one, can wear out the muscles, so continue to change positions frequently. 

You can alternate leaning forward with a straight back and sitting back in your chair, using the back support of the office chair to ease the work of back muscles. Avoid unbalanced postures like crossing legs unevenly while sitting, leaning to one side, hunching the shoulders forward or tilting the head, as these can irritate the muscles by placing an uneven stress on them.

4. Exercise regularly to help prevent injury and promote good posture

Regular aerobic exercise such as walking, bicycling or swimming will help your body stay aerobically conditioned. Along with specific strengthening exercises for your back, the muscles in your entire back will stay strong and continue to support proper posture without you having to think about doing so all the time. A strong muscle is more developed and can hold a position for longer without tiring out.

5. Wear supportive footwear 

Avoid wearing shoes that can affect the body’s natural center of gravity. This includes high-heeled shoes, which can alter the body’s natural alignment and thus make you more prone to developing back pain (and foot pain for that matter). When standing for long periods of time, place a rubber mat on the floor to help improve comfort.

6. Remember to maintain good posture and ergonomics when in motion

Walking, lifting heavy materials, holding a telephone and typing are all movement activities that require attention to ergonomics and posture. It is important to maintain good posture while moving to avoid injury. Back injuries most commonly occur while bending, lifting or twisting and also occur because of awkward movement and control of the upper body weight alone.

7. Stretch regularly throughout the day

Gentle neck stretches help keep the neck relaxed and out of a tension state. Follow these steps for a simple neck stretch you can use every day:

  1. Sit up nice and straight in a chair.

  2. Slowly bring your chin toward your chest until you feel a nice stretch along the back of your neck.

  3. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and bring your head back to neutral.

  4. Slowly bring your right ear toward your right shoulder until you feel a stretch along the left side of your neck. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds and bring your head back to neutral.

  5. Repeat the steps above to stretch the right side of your neck.

For all these stretches you can use your hands to apply a little more pressure in the direction of the stretch for maximum benefit. Just remember, stretching should feel good and not painful. If you are experiencing pain while stretching, it is likely you have pushed the muscle too far, so just back off a bit and don’t apply extra pressure to the stretch.

Visit SOL today for neck pain treatment

Is neck pain getting in your way to work or enjoy your favorite activities in life? Our team at SOL is here to help. We can determine the cause of your pain and develop a personalized treatment routine to help you reach your recovery goals. Contact our team today for more information about neck pain treatment or to schedule an initial appointment.


About the author

Sports + Orthopedic Leaders Physical Therapy & Performance Training serves the communities of Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Orinda, San Francisco and beyond. SOLPT’s award winning team of Physical Therapists, Performance Coaches and movement experts has helped thousands reach their rehabilitation and performance goals to move beyond pain. We're committed to helping anyone of any fitness level move effectively and more powerfully for a lifetime. We offer rehabilitation and performance services to all populations, with specialties in Sports Rehabilitation, Active Release Techniques, and Manual Therapy Techniques plus Personal and Small Group Training, Sport Clinics and Wellness Services.

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