If your job/life requires you to sit at a desk, chances are you’ve experienced or are experiencing some sort of trouble with you back, hips, neck, shoulders and elbows. This is completely normal, as many people sit at a desk incorrectly, however it does not mean that it’s good.
Oftentimes we tend to lean forwards, pushing our head forwards. Our neck is the body part that gets the most affected from this, because for every 15 degrees we move our head forwards, our head weight increases by around 6-7kg! Imagine the amount of stress you’d put onto the structures, nerves and muscles in your neck if you maintained this position consistently for a long time. Doing this can even cause the natural, healthy curvature in your neck to straighten out or sometimes even reverse.
Another poor sitting posture can be when we slump our lower back. Just like the neck, our lower back too has a natural curve. When we slump, we reverse this natural curve and again, force lots of pressure onto the structures surrounding the lower back and even down to the hips.
How can we alter our sitting posture to put as little risk as possible on damaging our spine?
The short answer, is to allow the spine to be in its natural position, with all curves in their correct positions.
An important factor to note in correct sitting position, is also the setup of your desk. We want to have the top of our screen at eye level. For laptop users, strongly consider investing in a monitor. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one, but it will allow our neck to curve the way it should, if the top is at eye level. Next, we want our desk to be at a height such that if you were to drop your arms to your side and then bend your elbows, your elbows would be able to comfortably rest on the table without your shoulders shrugging.
Next, we want to ensure that our lower back isn’t slumped. To do this, a chair with lumbar (low back) support is recommended. Another point to ensure our lower back isn’t slumped, which is probably a big factor in why people would get low back pain when sitting at a desk, is to activate our core/abdominal muscles.
At all times, we should have some activation of our core muscles to stabilise the spine. Sitting down is no different. When we activate our core muscles, the amount of pressure placed on our lower back is significantly reduced. We can do this by simply drawing our stomach in, so that it’s closer to our spine. We should be able to function and breathe normally in this position, so if you’re bracing too much, reduce it to a light activation.