How Can I Improve Posture At My Desk? Tips For Office Workers
Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // Dry Needling Certified // Director, EW Motion Therapy Meadowbrook
Hardly anyone is better acquainted with bad posture than office workers. With long hours sitting at a desk, and ergonomics that are usually less than ideal, it is easy for any office worker to end their day with back pain and tired eyes. It is said that sitting is the new smoking, and that is partially true - sitting for longer periods of time during your day can cause tension in your upper back and shoulders. It can also make you more prone to health problems. But when you have to be at your desk for eight hours of the day, what can you do to help improve your posture?
Our physical therapists at EW Motion Therapy work with many clients who complain of back and neck pain due to poor posture. We work to release tension in the affected areas and provide exercises to reduce the strain on the muscles. Even if you choose not to see us for therapy, we want to advise on how to improve posture during your workday.
This article will discuss why office workers tend to have poor posture, practical tips to improve posture at your desk, and how physical therapy might help you. With this information, you can pursue the best solution for you, and maybe even sit a little taller.
Having good posture does not always mean sitting up straight. Learn more about why posture is important here.
Why do office workers get bad posture?
Why is it that office workers are known for having such bad posture? For one thing, our bodies get used to sitting in certain positions if we stay in them for a long time. When our bodies naturally conform to the positions that we spend the most time in, it can be very difficult and even painful to try and move out of that position. This is why it is easy for any office worker to naturally hunch even when they are not sitting at their desk.
Also, most desks are not designed to be ergonomic. This means that your body is not in the optimum position to begin with. Your computer is not aligned with your line of sight, your arms are not at the proper angle, and there is not enough room between the end of your chair seat and the backs of your knees. If there is not enough space between chair and knees, then you would naturally scoot forward in the chair and then slump. Sounds like your desk? You may need to make some adjustments to better promote your spinal alignment.
How to improve posture at your desk
There are a few things you can do to get a better sitting posture during your workday. First, it is always a good idea to take short walks about once every hour during the day. This will help your body not conform to one position while you are sitting.
Posture has a lot more to do with breathing than most people realize. Breathing exercises throughout the day can be a great way to relieve tension - just make sure to include deep breaths that help expand your ribcage and use your diaphragm muscles. Breathing can also help focus your mind - this is why breath is such a crucial part of meditation.
You can also practice good desk ergonomics. The top of your computer should be even with your forehead and slightly tilted up, and your eyes should be 18-24 inches away from your screen. Make sure your chair is at a comfortable height so that your knees and hips can rest at at least a 90 degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor. Your elbows should also be able to rest at a 90 degree angle if you place them on your desktop. For people shorter in height, a bench or prop to rest your feet on can help you accomplish these angles comfortably.
Consider investing in a desk that can support you sitting and standing. We encourage the use of standing desks, but standing for long periods of time with poor posture can also create problems, so ideally the desk should move up and down to accommodate both sitting and standing. A great way to combat standing or sitting fatigue is to set a timer on your phone for an appropriate interval so you can change positions or go on a walk when it goes off.
Ultimately, one of the best things you can do for your posture is find a movement practice you enjoy and prioritize it in your day. This can look like a walk outside after work, or a Pilates or yoga class. However you enjoy moving, make it a nonnegotiable part of your day.
Do I need a posture-correcting device?
In order to correct posture, many people invest in back braces, or other posture-correcting devices that can be worn under clothing. These products can be great for immediate pain relief, but they may not be the best long-term solution. Because posture is naturally dynamic, and the device forces you into one position for however long you wear it, your muscles that the device is supporting can weaken over time. You may eventually become too reliant on the device and suffer pain if you choose not to wear it.
If you are just beginning the work to correct your posture, investing in a brace or other device might be a good idea to help cue good postural habits, and to help you become more aware of what healthy posture feels like. But you don’t want to rely on it as the only source of posture correction - you should only wear one for a limited amount of time per day.
Can physical therapy help me?
Now you know more about how to promote healthy, dynamic posture during your workday. If you are in pain due to poor posture, physical therapy can be a great solution if you decide to seek professional help. A PT will tailor their treatment and your home exercises to your body’s needs and your work environment, including what kind of desk you have. When you can do your exercises at home and at work, you can continue to improve your posture and help relieve more pain and tension over time.
At EW Motion Therapy, our ultimate goal is to help our clients move, feel, and live better with less pain in their daily movement. Posture is an essential part of overall health, and we give our clients the education and tools to keep themselves in the best shape possible. If you are interested in therapy with us, fill out the Request an Appointment form on our website, and someone from our staff will contact you within 48 hours with your next steps.