Ever step away from your laptop after a day of work and get greeted by a symphony of cracking joints and creaking muscles? Sometimes 9 hours of not moving causes more aches and spasms than an intense gym session. While in the office, you might have specially designed chairs and perfectly positioned desks. But now that we’re all working from home indefinitely due to the COVID-19 lockdown, keeping a good posture has gotten a whole lot more difficult.
As someone who is often guilty of working cross-legged on my living room floor, let me tell you that good posture is key to a productive workday. It also has some serious health implications.
According to Dr. Rajesh Rao, an orthopedist at Summit Medical Group in New Jersey, “Standing or sitting incorrectly puts additional strain on your vertebrae and the structures within and around them, such as intervertebral discs, nerves and the muscles that support your spine. This has a rippling effect throughout the entire body.”
Additionally, repeatedly sitting in the wrong position can cause back pain, muscle imbalances, neck pain, headaches and can worsen the effects of arthritis.
Whether you’re working or just relaxing at home, here’s how to have good posture, as well as good health.
1. Perfect your set-up.
Your DIY home office may not have all the fancy equipment of a traditional office building, but you have to work with what you have to keep that healthy posture.
Where possible, work at a desk or dining table with a chair with a firm, supportive back. Keep your laptop screen or monitor at eye level by propping it up on a stack of books. If you’re on your phone, hold it up to your eye height and rest your elbows on something. This will stop you from slouching and prevent neck pain.
Sit close to the desk so you’re not leaning forward to use your device. If you have to work on the couch or on a bed, avoid slumping into the cushions or lying down. Keep your feet flat to the floor and use lots of pillows to keep your back propped up.
2. Sit up straight.
This advice is kind of obvious, but sitting up straight is not something to be taken for granted. Dr. Rao warns us to pay close attention to how we sit to avoid slumping and placing strain on the cervical spine.
Your legs and knees should be positioned at a 90-degree angle from your pelvis with your feet flat on the ground. This stops you from twisting your hips and lower back into any damaging positions. Roll your shoulders back and allow them to sit in line with your ribs. If you’ve adopted this position, you’ll find that your elbows naturally tuck into your side when you’re typing, rather than extending flat or splaying out to the sides. Keeping your arms close to your side body will avoid any forearm aches.
3. Keep moving.
Healthy muscles are about a lot more than just how you sit, so make sure to keep that body moving as much as possible during and outside of your workday.
According to Dr. Rao, it’s not our long workdays that are causing back problems — it’s the lack of breaks. “There is currently not enough evidence to make a recommendation on the specific duration of sitting or lying down that is associated with poorer health outcomes. However, it is recommended to break up time spent sitting or lying down, as often as possible,” he says.
Taking a quick break every 20-30 minutes to stretch and shake out your joints will keep blood flowing to your joints and just generally help with your focus. Holding your good posture for 9 hours is actually a lot of work, so it’s important to exercise regularly so your body is prepped to withstand this process. Make sure you use your downtime wisely by going for walks, doing some yoga, and building those muscles. Think of it as training for your posture.
4. Sleep well.
On average, we spend a third of our lives sleeping. That’s a lot of time to do some serious muscle damage!
Try to sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back. This can be done by sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side. Avoid sleeping with your knees drawn up to your chest or on your stomach as this can cause back and neck strain. It’s also worth investing in a firm, supportive mattress. Back pain won’t rest when you do. So looking after your muscles even when sleeping is key to maintaining a great posture throughout your day.
Maintaining good posture is something that should be on all of our minds. However, when working, we often forget how crucial it is. So make sure to use these tips and stay healthy for as long as possible.
Originally published on YourTango