Over the past several decades, we have become something of a “seated society.” We sit at work, we sit at home, we sit to drive, we sit as spectators at sporting events, movies, and so on. In fact, according to Neville Own, speaker at the American College of Sport’s Medicine, May 2009, the average person sits 9.5 hours each day.
Unfortunately, all of this sitting comes at a cost, particularly when paired with bad posture. Not only does sitting contribute to the epidemic of low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, and many other conditions, there is also a link to sitting and an elevated risk for mortality.
So…stand up! It really can be as simple as that.
If it’s possible for you to have a stand-up workstation at your job, get one. If not, be sure to alternate standing and sitting whenever you can. Get a wireless headset for your phone and take phone calls standing up. Hold meetings standing up (as an added benefit, many efficiency experts say this is a great way to keep meetings from dragging on unnecessarily). Walk and talk rather than sit and type by using a voice dictation system – this will increase your words-per-minute speed and decrease your risk for conditions like carpal tunnel and lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow).
Of course, there will be times when standing just isn’t an option. In that case, be sure to follow the guidelines offered by the United States Department of Labor. They offer the following recommendations to maintain a neutral seated posture:
- Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
- Head is level or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.
- Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
- Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
- Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
- Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
- Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
- Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.
- The top of your screen should be at or below eye level.
Keep in mind, though, that while these recommendations for correct posture can help minimize the negative effects of sitting, it’s important that you not spend prolonged periods in the same position, no matter how good your posture. It is recommended that you stop and adjust every 15 to 20 minutes.
Make Your Workstation Work For You
You should also make use of posture aids whenever you’re seated at your desk or workstation, such as document holders which allow you to keep your head at monitor height so that you’re not constantly looking down and placing unnecessary stress on your neck. This simple step may be the solution to tension headaches for some people who suffer from them.
Wrist supports are another valuable accessory to any desk or workstation. These pads help to take pressure off of your wrists by promoting a neutral wrist posture rather than extension of the wrist. And while research has not proven that these supports are 100% effective, the theory behind them is sound and many people report positive results from their use.
Consult a Chiropractor
These are just a few suggestions to take the pain out of prolonged sitting. The key is to vary your position every 15 minutes or so and, if possible, transition from a sitting to standing posture frequently. Of course, if you are experiencing pain while working, it’s critical to get that pain assessed before it becomes a chronic issue. Dr. Nate, your Johnston Chiropractor, will be glad to assess your posture, offer suggestions for greater comfort, and treat any pain you are currently experiencing. If you have questions relating to pain at the workplace, call or email today.