Posts tagged posture
6 Things You Need to Do to Fix Your Posture
imageMany of us had our mothers bugging us for years to stand up straight. While the nagging may have been annoying, they probably had a point. Having good posture not only makes you look better and improves confidence, but it helps with breathing and circulation, decreases muscle spasms, and even helps your mood.

“When someone is confident and in a winning mood, they bring their shoulders back, their head over their shoulders and their arms raised up,” says Marvin C. Lee, a chiropractor in Los Angeles. “Good posture can promote these feelings.”

With so many people sitting at their desks for the majority of the day, bad posture has become commonplace. Having bad posture can negatively affect your body, including your back, jaw, hips, and knees. This can cause a lot of pain, along with long-term damage.

“We as humans were never meant to evolve into such sedentary creatures,” says Lee. “The prolonged sitting, hunched over our phones and computers, contributes a lot to our poor postures.”

It is not too late. Just because you have bad posture now doesn’t mean you can’t fix the way you stand. Strengthening the proper muscles and focusing on how you sit and stand can help you attain proper alignment. If you find yourself constantly slumped over, consider trying some of the following tips for better posture.

1. GET UP AND MOVE

“Get up at least once an hour to go to the bathroom, bust out a quick set of stretches, or get yourself a glass of water,” says Lee. Staying hunched over at your desk can cause bad posture, so any chance you have to move around, take it.

2. SWITCH TO A STANDING DESK

While this may not be possible for everyone, getting a standing desk allows you to stay upright while you’re working and avoid the slouched-over position that’s so detrimental to our alignment.

3. TRAIN YOUR MUSCLES

By taking up a regular exercise regimen, you can train your body to not only be stronger, but to hold itself up properly. “Be diligent about proper posture while working out so you can train the proper muscles to hold that posture while you are at rest,” says Dr. Matt DeLeva, another chiropractor in Los Angeles.

4. DO A DESK STRETCH

There are many stretches you can do while seated at your desk that incorporate the shoulders, neck, back, and legs. Try a simple hamstring stretch or an easy twist to keep your muscles from tensing up in the same position all day.

5. TAKE UP YOGA

Many yoga poses incorporate back stretches, strengthen your core, and help with relaxation and flexibility. Yoga also helps bring more awareness to your body, which can help you pay attention to how you carry yourself.

6. CHANGE THE WAY YOU SIT

You can have the nicest and most ergonomic chair, but if you are sitting improperly in it, your posture will be affected. “Try lifting your chair or putting a pad under you so that your knees are lower than your hips,” says DeLeva. This will keep the correct curvature in your back and neck.

Originally published on Bustle, November 2014.

5 Tips to Stay Healthy If You Sit at a Computer All Day

imageDesk jockeys aren’t athletes, but they still need to stay fit.

It might be due to the darkness that accompanies shorter days, or the invasion of warmer, comfier clothes into the winter workplace, but now is the time when long hours, slouching, slumping, and straining dominate the office. Clean up your act around the computer, before bad habits lead to poor health.

Here are five ways to make sure your computer desk doesn’t become the death of you.

1. Give your monitor a second look.

If your screen is planted directly on your desktop, it’s time to ask management for a raise — for your computer’s display. According to Dr. Jim Sheedy, director of the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University, the top of your the screen should be level with your eyes. The ideas is to get the eyes looking down about 10 degrees. If it’s any lower or higher, computer users will adapt to it by moving their head. If your screen is to low, your head points down, causing neck and back aches. High displays, meanwhile, contribute to dry eye syndrome.

2. Poor posture? Take it on the chin.

Poor posture is something that every office-based employee should consider throughout their day. Most people sitting at a computer get drawn into the screen, which means they crane their necks forward. This imbalance puts strain on the neck and spine. It’s like holding a bowling ball with one hand, says Dr. James Bowman, of Portland, Ore.-based Solutions Chiropractic. If your arm is vertical underneath, it puts less strain on the muscles, but lean that ball forward and your muscles have to compensate to keep it aloft. Sitting at a desk, that bowling ball is actually our head, so Bowman recommends chin retractions, or making a double chin, to keep the neck and spine lined up underneath.

“It’s probably the most effective single exercise you can do for the upper back and neck,” he says.

3. Stand up for yourself.

The modern workplace was built around the concept of sitting, but humans’ ability to stand goes back millions of years. Buck the trend of the office era with a standing desk — or, if that’s too radical, a sit-stand workstation. According to research out of the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, sit-stand workstations helped workers replace 25 percent of their sitting time with standing up, which can increase their sense of well being and decreased their fatigue and appetite. The Jarvis Desk can go from 26-inches to 51-inches at the push of a button, lifting up to 350 pounds of whatever’s on your desk—including multiple monitors.

“I definitely feel healthier standing while working as it causes me to be more focused on my posture and ‘hold’ myself better in terms of my stomach and shoulders especially,” says Dan McCormack, who uses a Jarvis Desk at his home office in Austin, Texas.

4. Move it or lose it.

But why stand when you could walk? Many offices around the country are getting wise to treadmill desks, which can help workers burn 100 calories more per hour over sitting, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.

“The most important thing is to switch it up and work in different positions throughout the day,” says Emily Couey, Eventbrite’s vice president of people. The online event ticketing service offers multiple workspace options including traditional sitting desks, standing desks, and treadmill desks, which Couey says “people love, because it allows them move while they work — especially those with fitness trackers counting their daily steps.”

5. Pace yourself.

All work and no play makes Jack a bad employee. Whether it’s on their phone in the bathroom or on the computer in their cube, everyone takes sanity breaks to check their Facebook or read some news. The Pomodoro Technique even encourages this kind of behavior by breaking tasks into “pomodoros,” intense 25 minute work bursts, followed by five-minute breaks.

Named because they can be measured using little tomato-shaped kitchen timers (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato), this method lets people work intensely and stave off distraction, yet rewards them with time to goof off, as well. If you don’t have a tomato timer handy, there are a lot of apps online to keep track of your sessions. But Francesco Cirillo, the technique’s founder, recommends using the real deal.

“You have to be able to actually wind it up,” Cirillo says in his book, The Comodoro Technique. “The act of winding up the Pomodoro is a declaration of your determination to start working on the activity at hand.”

Originally published on Time.com, November 7, 2014.

I Think, Ergo I Stand

By Bara Vaida

imageEvery week, ergonomics expert July Landis walks into offices and observes workers slouching in their chairs and leaning over keyboards with hunched shoulders. Some are straining their necks to view too-high computer monitors and others are awkwardly twisting their bodies to grab their phone or read documents.

She sees recipes for pain.

“There are all kinds of ways that people, without realizing it, are doing things to injure themselves at work,” says Landis, president and CEO of Ergo Concepts, a suburban Germantown, Maryland ergonomics consulting firm hired by large and small companies to create pain-free office environments.

Every year, about 1 million people strain their necks, hurt their backs or sprain their wrists so badly that they need serious medical attention and can’t return to work for days, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That lost work time and the medical costs relating to treating disabling workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses more than $20 billion in 2011, according to a 2013 report by Liberty Mutual Insurance, a Boston-based company that analyzes federal ergonomics data to create its national Workplace Safety Index.

Further, new research shows that the amount of time people spend sitting is causing injury to their health. Adults who sit for more than four hours a day, compared with those who sit for just two hours, have a 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause and a 125 percent increased risk of health problems related to cardiovascular disease, says James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” says Landis.

Whiles some smaller companies and single-individual-run businesses may feel they don’t have the money or time for ergonomics, there are quantifiable savings, says Bruce Lyon, director of risk control at the Hays Companies, an employee-benefits brokerage firm based in Kansas City, Missouri. For every $1 that a company spends on workplace safety, its return on investment is about $4 to $6, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates.

“Employers and employees often don’t think of sitting as dangerous,” says Lyon. “But if you are static and sitting in an incorrect posture for an extended period, that constricts blood flow. Eventually, the restriction causes soft tissue damage, and for some it can be debilitating.”

To prevent injuries, Landis, a physical therapist by training, and her staff help companies purchase ergonomically correct office equipment and provide evaluation and training to employees. They teach how body positions and daily work activities can lead to the development of chronic pain.

“There is no one-size-fits-all method of pieces of equipment,” says Landis, whose company has consultants in 45 U.S. cities. “You have to evaluate each person’s height, weight and body type, whether they are right- or left-handed, the amount of time they are sitting in front of a computer, and then, through a collaborative discussion, tailor a solution to that person.”

Consistent themes do arise. For example, in a recent evaluation visit to the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in Washington, D.C., Landis worked with Sohni Anand and Chris Graham. Anand suffered from chronic, tingling neck pain, while Graham had occasional lower back pain. After talking and watching while they worked, Landis spotted the problems: incorrectly positioned chairs, computer monitors, keyboards and feet. She gave both AIR employees lessons on using and positioning their equipment, and then offered advices on ways to stay active during the day.

A half hour after Landis had made the fixes, Anand said, “I already feel better.”

Originally published in the Costco Connection, August 2014.

Office Products to Support Posture

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As a follow-up to our first post of the month on office posture, here’s a list of products that will help keep your back straight, your shoulders relaxed, and create an overall sense of comfort while working at your desk.

First, an ergonomic office chair is key for healthy working. If this is not available to you, consider acquiring a backrest to place at your chair. This will provide support by easing some of the pressure of sitting in an uncomfortable office chair.

Another essential item to consider is one that provides support to your wrists. This could be achieved by using a keyboard or mouse-pad wrist rest. Be sure to use these so that your wrists remain as flat and supported as possible.

Finally, a monitor arm is an excellent tool for easily positioning and adjusting a computer screen. By placing the screen at a comfortable height and appropriate distance, you can avoid any neck strain from tilting your head.

Soothing Back Pain by Learning How to Sit Again

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In light of Correct Posture Month, the New York Times published an article, The Posture Guru of Silicon Valley, about instructor Esther Gokhale. She attempts to soothe the back pain of those hard-working Californians plagued with “Silicon Valley syndrome,” by “reintroducing her clients to… the ‘primal posture’.” Gokhale explains that this posture was “common among our ancestors before slouching became a way of life.”

From Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, to one of Google’s senior vice presidents, Susan Wojcicki, Gokhale has trained thousands of workers “chained to their technology… hunched over desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.” Like these Silicon Valley executives and board or staff members, many office workers in the U.S. sit at desks all day, which “goes hand in hand with back, neck and shoulder discomfort.” (Any of this ringing uncomfortable bells?)

Gokhale offers an accessible, non-surgical approach to back pain treatment by reteaching students how to “sit, stand, sleep and walk” in an "upright and relaxed" stance. See below for some of Gokhales tips for elongating and stacking the spine into a tall J-shape:

  • Relax the front of the pelvis downward
  • The belt line should slant forward
  • The rear should angle back so “your behind is behind you, not under you”
  • Hold the rib cage flush with the stomach
  • Roll your shoulders up and gently bring them back and down
  • Re-center your head over you spine

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Correct Office Posture

In honor of Correct Posture Month, we turned to Spine Health for some tips on comfortable work posture. If you spend hours of your workday in front of the computer (don’t we all), read on for ways to avoid the pain and strain that comes along with the job.

Spine Health contributors, John J. Triano, DC, PhD and Nancy C. Selby, BS, suggest the following to help avoid back or neck pain at the office:

  • Adopt a user-friendly workstation by adjusting the position of your office chair, computer, and desk
  • Modify your sitting posture. Many people sit towards the front of their chair and end up hunching forward to look at their screens. The better seated posture is to sit back in your office chair, utilizing the chair’s lumbar support to keep your head and neck erect.
  • Take stretch breaks and walking breaks when sitting in an office chair for long periods.

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In order to ensure your workstation is “user-friendly," consider the following adjustments:

  • Choose the right surface height (standing, sitting, or semi-seated) for your work. Ex: Architects and draftsman may want a higher surface for drawing, while traders and other people performing computer-entry work could be seated or standing (depending on the necessary job tools). Finally, work surface height depends on the physical height of the individual worker.
  • Adjust your seat so your work surface is "elbow high.” Also consider the following: A fist should be able to pass easily behind the calf and in front of the seat edge to keep the back of the legs from being pressed too hard and the feet from swelling. Two fingers should slip easily under each thigh. If not, use a couple of telephone books or a footrest to raise the knees level with the hips. The backrest of the office chair should push the low back forward slightly. If these adjustments cannot be adequately made with the existing office chair, a different make or type of chair may be considered.
  • Adjust the height of your computer screen. Once you have made adjustments to your chair, close your eyes and relax. Then, slowly reopen them. Where your gaze initially focuses should be the center-point of your screen. If necessary, use books or a stand to raise the height of your screen.

Happy posture fixing! Also, keep an eye out for our next post about specific products that can help with your office posture.