Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 12:10 PM
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 12:10 PM
By: Rose Kennedy - For the AJC
— "Sit up straight!" may sound like nagging straight out of the 1950s, but it's spot on advice for the 21st century workplace.
Constant shifting around to get comfortable at your work computer, and hunched over a smart phone at home, wreaks havoc on your back, neck and shoulders.
Regular computer users perform 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes each day, according to the nonprofit website, OrthoInfo.com, compiled by orthopedic surgeons. "Under certain circumstances and for vulnerable individuals, frequent computer use that involves awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage," OrthoInfo.com noted.
Postures induced by using modern technology can also cause other health problems. When you lean forward at your desk, for example, you're more likely to clench your jaw and tighten facial muscles, which leads to headaches and jaw pain, according to LiveStrong.com.
Hunching over can also reduce your lung capacity by as much as 30 percent, Dr. Rene Cailliet told Livestrong.com. The former director of University of Southern California's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation noted that lungs underperforming leads to a deficit of oxygenated blood which in turn can contribute to shortness of breath, cloudy thinking and even heart and vascular disease.
But you don't have to sit back and accept these plagues of poor posture as a cost of using technology.
Experts from business coaches to orthopedic surgeons suggest ways to improve your posture and spare your back.
Here are five of the best ways to have better posture at work:
Choose your chair. To encourage great posture in an office environment, your best bet is a chair that is stable and adjusts easily for height and tilt, according to reporting on the OrthoInfo website. "Consider a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower (lumbar) back," the organization said. "Experts recommend you consider positioning your thighs horizontal with your knees at about the same level as your hips. Rest your feet comfortably on the floor or on a footrest if you need one."
Other chair attributes that encourage great posture included a padded seat with a pan at least one-inch wider than your hips as well as adjustable armrests that position your elbows near your waist.
Sit like you mean it. An OrthoInfo.com article written and reviewed by orthopedic surgeons recommends sitting with your back in a normal, slightly arched position to avoid back pain. Other work posture basics from the orthopedic surgeon community include keeping your head and shoulders erect, and making sure your work surface is set at a height that won't require you to lean forward.
Sit on a ball. Cybersecurity expert and entrepreneur Joseph Steinberg, told Inc magazine that he combats back pain and other drawbacks of bad posture at work by spending part of his work day sitting on an exercise ball, alternating it with his leather office chair.
"Sitting on the ball makes it more difficult to slouch, engages various muscle groups that remain at rest when slouching on a chair, and builds muscle," he noted. "While the ball is clearly not as comfortable a seat as an executive chair, I got used to it pretty quickly."
Get a vibrating reminder. Steinberg also recommended the Lumo Lift, a tiny device that attaches to your shirt with a magnet. If you slouch, it gently vibrates to remind you to adjust your posture.
Stand and stretch. Even if you're not slouching, you need ample breaks to combat back pain and other effects of working in front of computers for a long time. At least once an hour you should stand and stretch, according to OrthoInfo.com. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward before returning to your work.