Whether you are a student or working a “9-5” job a large portion of your day is spent sitting at a desk, studying, in meetings, on your phone/laptop/computer, etc. The vast majority of the population that is required to sit for long periods at a time end up in a slumped posture of forward head, rounded shoulders, and rounded thoracic and lumbar spine. Prolonged seated positioning in this posture can create pain throughout the back, neck, shoulders, and even headaches.
There are things that can be done throughout the day to combat prolonged positioning throughout the day in order to prevent or reduce pain caused by this seated posture. Adjusting your work station to ensure unnecessary stress isn’t being placed on structures during your day, and promotes improved posture throughout the day. A couple of simple alterations include:
- Placing your computer or phone so that the middle of the monitor is at eye level. Using a cookbook/book stand to reduce the time that you are looking down at your textbook or phone while studying/working
- Keyboard placed close to your body with elbows resting at 90 degrees and neutral wrist positioning
- Alternate between sitting/standing hourly if using a transitional desk. If not, set timer on phone to go off every 45-60 minutes to stand, stretch, walk to get water, move!
- Sit with lumbar/back support to promote proper posture and avoid slumping/slouching with feet grounded on the floor
- If using the phone frequently avoid tilting head to hold between ear and shoulder, use of a headset if possible or use of speakerphone
Stretching throughout the day along with simple exercises that can be performed in your chair or standing at your desk can help to combat the forward head and rounded shoulder posture that people often fall into during their workday, studying, looking down at our cellphones. These include:
Muscles that often get stiff and shortened with prolonged sitting include your pectoralis major and minor, sternocleidomastoid, suboccipitals, upper trapezius, hip flexors, hamstrings. Getting up frequently throughout the day and moving will help to prevent pain from prolonged sitting, as well as give your eyes a break from prolonged screen time.
If pain persists or you have any questions regarding ergonomics at work, your desk, or for more techniques to further improve your health with work or your daily activities, don’t hesitate to reach out to a physical therapist to keep you active and pain free in whatever you enjoy doing!
Written by Anna Bechtold PT, DPT
Anna earned her doctorate of physical therapy from the University of Montana and has been working in Washington and Alaska since graduation in 2016. She and her husband, also a physical therapist, recently relocated to Bozeman and have joined the APRS Physical Therapy team.