Desk Posture

Desk posture. We saw a large increase in people working from home (WFH) during the Covid Lockdown. People switching from an office setting to their dining rooms. No more ergonomic chairs and keyboards, now you have hard dining chairs and laptops on top of a couple books.

As lockdown started to ease, the physiotherapist industry saw a spike in desk-related patients coming through the door. Low back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain…you name it.

There were a couple reasons for this:

  • The change in desk set up as mentioned before
  • Less comfy/ergonomic chairs
  • Increase in working hours due to you not technically leaving your ‘office’
  • Less time on your feet going to meet Sandra in HR because you just had to email her now

Nowadays we live in a world where a hybrid set up is not uncommon. Some days in the office, some days still at home. So how can you prevent yourself from getting those aches and pains if your job is still quite sedentary?

My top tips to begin with are:

  • Set alarms: every 30mins or an hour an alarm will go off, you stop what you are doing, and you get up out your chair for 5-10 mins. Go get a coffee or some water, go outside and get some fresh air and stretch off. Just get out of your chair!
  • Desk set up: not everyone has the correct chair and monitor set up but you can maximise the space you have available to you. For chairs, if it is a rigid dining chair, try some pillows to soften behind your back. Being able to plant your feet on the floor is another issue, if you don’t have the hydraulics of desk chairs to move up and down – so sit something under your feet so your legs are supported. For your monitor, try ensure you aren’t looking down at a laptop but directly in front, so prompt up your screen/laptop to accommodate this.
  • Avoid setting up your office in the centre of the house: if the kitchen is the life and soul of your house, don’t sit at the dining table where you can stare at your laptop and think “I’ll just do that report” or “I should probably finish off those documents for Linda now”. Disassociation is key in separating yourself from work when you operate from home, to allow you to take a break.

In terms of exercises and ways to manage aches and pains through this modality, regular mobility of the neck, middle and lower back, as well as hips will go a long way.

The Neck:

Rounded shoulders and looking down at a laptop for long periods of time can cause some discomfort in the neck muscles at the back.

For some initial pain, light stretches to your upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles would be a good starting point.

  1. Levator Scapulae stretch
  • Drop your shoulder down to the floor, before looking down and round to your opposite arm pit (think nose to armpit). If you feel a good stretch here already then hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat 3 times. You can also add a little overpressure with the opposite hand if you feel this is required.
  • Upper Trapezius stretch
  • Similar to the levator scapulae stretch, drop the shoulder down towards the floor before tilting your ear down to the opposite side. Again, if this stretch is enough hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat 3 times. Add overpressure as required.

Mid-Low Back:

Desk workers are also prone to mid-low back stiffness and pain due to the increase time sitting +/- the influence of the chair.

Mobility exercises targeting flexion and extension, as well as rotational movements are a good way of easing any tension or discomfort you may feel.

Due to rounding the upper back, extension is a great way to alleviate any stiffness. Start by placing your hands on the desk, then rolling backwards in your chair and dropping your chest down to the floor. You should feel a nice stretch in the upper back.

For other desk-based exercises, follow the link:

Thread the needle is a nice way to stretch off and get some rotation in the mid-back. Start in a quadruped position, place one hand through the gap you have created between your arms and leg, rotating your mid-back round as far as possible. Repeat 10-20 times per side.

For the low back, some pelvic movement and flexion to relax the low back is usually beneficial.

Seated forward bend

In sitting, relax your had and mid-back, placing your hands between your legs. Slowly let your arms fall towards the floor, rounding the low back. In this position, take a couple deep breaths in and out and then roll back up.

Seated pelvic tilts

In sitting, arch your back as to ‘sit up straight’ and then transition into a slumped posture. These two positions should alternate between anterior and posteriorly tilting your pelvis. 10-20 reps to get the low back and pelvis moving.

Still feeling some pain and discomfort from your time sitting?

You might benefit from some hands on release work. If so, call us on 01560 483200 or book online below.

Further Information

If you have any questions about neck, back, shoulder or elbow pain, or would like to book an appointment to see a physiotherapist, please click here to book. Book Online – Physioflexx Ayrshire

For all enquiries : Contact – Physioflexx Ayrshire on 01560 483200.

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