Are your desk-bound employees wearing the weight of the world on their rounded shoulders?

Feb 04, 2019

Are your desk-bound employees wearing the weight of the world on their rounded shoulders?

Learn how to reverse computer posture with corrective work breaks.

Baseball players are known for developing pain in their rotator cuff. Tennis players in their elbow. And Desk Jockeys… in their neck, back AND shoulders.  When we sit for long periods of time in poor posture, we develop what’s known as computer posture. AKA Tech Neck, Rounded Shoulders, Forward Head Deviation… And it’s taking a toll on our bodies. Forward head posture not only leads to chronic pain, it can cause numbness in the arms and hands, improper breathing, pinched nerves, fatigue, and headaches.

[Are you sitting tall yet? Chest lifted, shoulders back and down, belly in?]

It’s no wonder that 74% of office workers experience pain from sitting at their desk and 10% claim to be in pain for most of the day. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines prolonged sitting as an occupational hazard of sedentary occupations. It makes sense, then, that low back pain caused by a sedentary lifestyle both at home and at work now tops disability concerns, according to The Global Burden of Disease.

[Here’s What Happens When You Slouch]

Our heads weigh a lot—as much as a bowling ball (about 10 pounds). When we sit in proper alignment, our bowling ball heads are stacked correctly with our ears over our shoulders, requiring no extra work for the rest of our bodies. But--when our heads jut forward (called Forward Head Deviation) towards our computer screens, our shoulders round and the muscles, bones and nerves in our neck and shoulders are taxed. In fact, for every inch our head leans forward, our backs feel an additional 10 pounds. So, that 10-pound head leaning 4 inches forward, now feels more like a 40 pound head. Over time, certain muscles become long and weak, while others shorten and become tight.

[How To Correct the Slouch]

Computer posture is preventable and there are simple strategies to infuse throughout your work day to reverse the slouch.

  1. Ergonomics: Here are the basics.
  • Eyes: The top of the monitor should be at your eye level.
  • Elbows and Knees: both should be at 90 degrees
  • Wrists should be straight OR below the elbow.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor.

For a more detailed ergonomic image, check out https://www.osha.gov/Publications/videoDisplay/videoDisplay.html 

  1. Walking breaks.Our bodies were meant to move. Get up and walk around and as you do start to realign your body, standing tall with chest lifted, shoulders down. 
  1. Corrective Work Breaks.When we are seated for the majority of the day, it’s not just our backside that weakens; all of our muscles become weak. So, when we try to stand, walk or move, our weakened muscles struggle to pull our bodies into alignment. Breaks that stretch tight postural muscles while strengthening weak postural muscles are a smart choice for desk-bound employees. Recommended by Corrective Exercise Specialists, these exercises can be done every day.

Tennis Ball Massage Neck (base of skull to top of  shoulder)

Press a tennis ball into a wall with your neck and move the ball in small circles working from your hair line to the top of your back. If this becomes too awkward, simply press the ball into your neck using your hands. When you a feel tight spot, stop and press the ball deeper holding for 10-30 seconds.

Tennis Ball Massage Upper Back

Press a tennis ball into a wall or the back of a chair (or, if possible, lay on the ground and press it into the floor). Work the ball from the top of your back to just below the shoulder blade, avoiding any compression on the spine. When you feel a tight spot, stop and press the ball holding for 10-30 seconds.

[Tennis ball tip: place 2 tennis balls into a long sock. It’s easier to manipulate placement of the balls and covers more territory!]

Step Backs

Stand tall and step your right leg back and swing your right arm up in line with your ear. Squeeze your right gluteal and push your hips forward. Pause and return to standing. Do 3-5 repetitions each side.

 “Why” Stretch

Stand and take your arms out to your side and slightly behind you. Rotate your palms upward. Squeeze the shoulder muscles in the middle of your back to help pull your shoulder blades and arms back. Do not shrug. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Do 2-3 repetitions.

SOURCES:

NIOSH. Using Total Worker Health concepts to reduce the health risks from sedentary work. Workplace Solutions (2017)

Price, J. Excessive thoracic kyphosis: more than just bad posture. IdeaFIT(2015).

Sanchez, N. Low back pain caused by sedentary lifestyle tops disability concerns. Liberty Voice (2014). 

The 74% article.

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