Good posture when sitting at your desk
20th February 2015
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Posture describes how your body is aligned when sitting, standing or lying down. Many people have jobs which are predominantly desk-based and bad posture can increase the stress on joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments which, over time could lead to strain or injury. Here’s some advice from experienced osteopath Peter Leigh to help you improve your posture when sitting.

With regard to our musculoskeletal system we are all anatomically the same, but put together in different proportions.  A chair should be comfortable for you, what is comfortable for one person is not necessarily so for someone else.  Always listen to your body.

 From the feet up

  • Feet should be resting either on the floor or on a foot rest; otherwise the weight of the legs will tend to pull you forwards through the pelvis affecting your posture.
  • A seat should ideally be the right depth for you, so that you can sit back comfortably into the backrest.  Too deep and the knees can’t bend so you end up sitting away from the backrest, too short and the edge of the seat can dig into the back of the thighs. Crossing the legs for too long can reduce circulation and put a strain through the hips and pelvis.
  • Our spines are all slightly different in terms of shape and flexibility.  The lumbar spine generally needs support to prevent the lower back from slumping, too much slumping will put loading on discs and other structures, which can be painful and cause muscles to contract to support the back.  If the lower back slumps, this will cause the shoulders to roll forwards and hence the neck will extend backwards, this will again put strain through the spinal structures and the muscles can tighten and fatigue.  Over time this may cause pain and discomfort anywhere throughout the spine.
  • If the backrest of a chair is fixed, a pillow or cushion can help with support if needed.  The support should be the right thickness, so that the lower back is not pushed too far forward, or allowed to slump.  The support can be placed at the base of the spine, but very often having the emphasis of the support higher up is more helpful.  Try deliberately slumping and place the support where the apex of the slump in the lower back occurs.  Keeping the lower back supported, will help maintain a better posture throughout the spine.

 When using a computer

  • If using a computer, the desk should not be too close or too far away, too high or too low, the arms should bend at approximately 90 degrees with the hands resting over the keyboard.
  • A chair with arms can hit the edge of the desk preventing you sitting close enough, so you end up perching on the chair. 
  • A mouse should be placed next to the keyboard pretty much where your hand rests naturally, they tend to creep away from you, so using a mouse mat will help you keep them in position.  Repetitive use of a keyboard or mouse can lead to problems with the wrist and fingers, good arm positioning can help to minimise the chance of problems, and use of a wrist rest may help reduce the loading.
  • Try to centre yourself in front of a monitor and keyboard to avoid having to hold your neck or body in a twisted position, the monitor should be roughly at eye level.  Be aware when wearing glasses that they can cause you to tilt your head up or down.  Try to limit repetitive turning to the sides or over reaching and stretching.  Holding the phone between the ear and shoulder is likely to lead to neck and shoulder problems.
  • The layout of a desk is often static, think about moving things around to make access easier and to avoid over reaching and repetitive movements.
  • Try to take a five minute break at least once an hour and walk around to help circulation, roll the shoulders gently and turn the neck from side to side.

None of us are good the whole time, but if you are having problems have a look at your seat and desk set up.  If necessary take some ergonomic advice or seek help from your osteopath or other therapist.

Peter Leigh is a fully qualified osteopath and part-time Senior Clinic Tutor at the British School of Osteopathy. Peter has been treating patients at Fleet Osteopathic Clinic for over 30 years and takes a holistic approach to the treatment of muscles and joints which are causing pain as a result of specific injuries, poor posture, medical conditions or age.

About the Author

Tracey S

Member since: 27th June 2014

I have over 20 year’s marketing experience working for companies including Hewlett Packard, Royal Mail, Hitachi and AQA. I live in Fleet and am the owner of thebestof Fleet helping small and medium companies...

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