Desk jobs were long thought of as the peak of success. People who worked in fields and factories held these positions up as goals for their children, in large part because they didn’t want them to have to suffer the injuries, aches, and pains that went along with manual labor. How ironic that today, many chronic injuries are a direct result of sitting at our desks for too long, in ergonomically unhealthy positions.
The good news is that many of the millions of people who are struggling with back, shoulder and neck pain from working at a desk can take steps to improve their quality of life. The answer lies in three things: getting some exercise, moving around and correcting your posture.
The place to start is with identifying the problem, and you can do that simply by taking a good long look in the mirror. If you stand up straight and look at your own reflection, are your shoulders level? Does your head tilt to one side or the other? Is your chin sticking out?
The answers to these questions are important, because when your head is out of the proper position, it adds roughly 10 pounds of weight to the muscles in your upper back and neck. The answer is to consciously set your body straight. If you can do that when you’re in front of the mirror, you can do it throughout the day, reminding yourself by putting Kinesio tape on your skin in the morning before you get dressed. If you make an “X” with the tape running from each shoulder to the opposite hip, and then a horizontal strip connecting the top portions of the “X”, it will hold your muscles in place, and may train you to maintain that position.
The other postural issue that needs to be addressed is your position when you’re actually sitting at your desk. If you are hunched over when looking at your computer screen or working on your keyboard, you are weakening your shoulder blades and the muscles that support them. You can fix the problem by doing a simple exercise of sitting with your arms by your sides with your neck relaxed, then squeeze your shoulder blades together and downwards as if you have a pencil there that you need to hold. If you hold that position for 5 seconds and repeat the exercise 10-15 times, three times a day, you’ll feel a big difference.
The next thing you need to do is start getting more exercise. This means strengthening your glutes so that they keep your hips in neutral alignment. Hip bridges are a good way to do this. These are done by lying on your back with your knees bent and arms folded across your chest, then push down through your heels and lift your pelvis towards the ceiling. Hold this for 2-3 seconds and do 12-15 reps two times a day.
Finally, you need to make sure that you’re moving. We’re not talking about going to the gym or running laps – we mean getting up from your desk at least every half hour and walking around. Doing so decreases stress on your back and joints.