Doing anything for long amounts of time will have an impact our bodies. Running a marathon will cause tired, achy muscles and blisters, lying in an uncomfortable position can lead to a cricked neck and this is none the less so for sitting, looking at a screen for extended amounts of time.
Your Work Station
The set up of our work station is paramount in optimizing our posture whilst working at a screen. If the screen is too low, we end up adopting this forward head posture and flexed spine which leads to rounded shoulders, tightness in the chest muscles and an achy back of the neck.
By raising the screen to eye level, the neck is in a more balanced position and the spine is extended which opens up the chest.
Repetitive Strain Injury
Repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel are common injuries of a poorly set up keyboard and mouse position. Repeated anything in non optimal alignment is going to have negative results on your body. The keyboard should be at position where your wrists are in as neutral a position as possible, neither over extended or over flexed, and allowing a light touch with the keyboard. Elbows should be at 90 degrees to your torso to keep the whole arm as passive as possible in its position.
Make sure you are comfortable with your mouse and that it isn’t too big that your fingers are constantly overstretched and gripping it to work with it.
I am used to spending much of my day on my feet so sitting is not my forte! During the first 2 weeks of lockdown, I was experiencing loads of discomfort in the middle of my spine (thoracic spine) after sitting at the computer for hours of time that my body was not used to. In clinic I am on my feet all day. Although I don’t do lots of big movements and rarely get my steps in per day, my body and joints are constantly moving as I shift and work with my clients. Sitting at my computer had me in a fixed position and, to add to that, I was sitting on a hard wooden stool which gave my pelvis and pelvic floor muscles (an important component of breathing) no movement whatsoever!
A quick trip to check on clinic and grab my gym ball and all is sorted. Sitting is now full of movement. With the exercise ball I can literally move whilst sitting – rocking my pelvis forwards and back, shifting side to side – to keep my spine, pelvis, ribcage and skull mobile whilst I work.
The ball is great for physical movement in my body which in turn increases the sensory input of proprioceptive awareness of my body in space through balance, firing up neural pathways that help improve the brain’s ability to focus. We are meant to move so aiding this whilst sitting is nothing but beneficial to our bodies. Balls have been used in special needs schools and with children with ADHD and ADD to help them concentrate in class, as it provides an outlet for their natural instinct to move.
Size wise the ball should be 10cm bigger in diameter than the height of your usual chair, but in general a ball of 65cm or 75cm should do the trick.
Standing desks are a great answer to combat the posture of sitting at a desk. Standing means that the body is constantly working to maintain balance on two feet, feeding the external and internal stimuli the body needs to maintain homeostasis in space. It also lends itself to movement and combating the static postures associated with sitting. It opens up the hips into extension, lengthening the often shortened hip flexors and helping the big gluteal muscles to engage.
Standing desks themselves can be expensive but the idea can be utilised to create your own at home. I often swap work positions, away from my desk in the office, to work at the island counter in the kitchen so as to give my body a different experience and open up my hip joints to get my sleepy glutes awake.
I like the converter standing desks like these ones for their ability to adapt to the desk or counter space you already have. They can also be very affordable.
Here’s some links to start you off:
Mobile Phones and Tablets
Mobile phones and tablets have become a big part of everyday life, and none the less so for the younger generations. This one is a biggie for our kids as they navigate huge amounts of time at home and trying to connect to their friends. Posture wise, like sitting at a poorly set up computer station, they have negative effects on the neck and spinal positions – even more so as being handheld, the devices themselves are not set in an optimal position to begin with, leading the user take their neck completely out of alignment with the shoulders it should be aligned over.
This inevitably leads to neck strain, poor spinal mechanics and negatively impacts breathing by restricting movement of the ribcage and therefore compressing the space for the lungs to fill to their capacity.
If at all possible, a well set up computer or laptop is preferential for calls, school work and gaming, but if this isn’t possible then I would recommend a screen holder as the best option to prevent them slouching away on the couch. I have a great boom stand for my phone for client meetings. It means I can set it to eye level but swing it around the room when demonstrating exercises and movements.
I got mine from here
Now go have a look at your digital set up!