5 Tips to Fight "Desk Posture"
Anything worth having in life takes work, right? Well a healthy posture really is no different. One thing that frustrates the heck out of not only my patients, but myself as well, is when we take two steps forward in the office, just to have the 9-5 throw us one step back. I mean think about it, we spend time in the office trying to correct a problem and then most people go right back to what caused it in the first place. So, for my desk warriors out there, this is for you! 5 Keys to Fighting "Desk Posture".
1. Ditch the conventional chair
Did you know that the average American sits 12 hours per day! Now, lets add that physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality. You would think that fact alone would motivate people to spend less time on their butts, but for the most part, it doesn't. So, what should we do, and what does it have to do with Chiropractic?
Prolonged sitting does something interesting in our spine. It allows us to be extremely efficient and utilize the bony structure to support the weight of our body instead of relying on the musculature. That sounds good right? Efficiency is what we are always looking for, isn't it? Wrong! The quickest way to make a muscle weak is to not use it. So, what happens when we NEED those week muscles. You guessed it. We get hurt.
Weakened Stabilizing Musculature Mostly Restored Stabilizing Musculature
As I type this I am sitting on my exercise ball chair. These can be as simple or as complex (or expensive) as you'd like them to be. Mine is very simple and cost just shy of $40. I consider it a very cost efficient way to maintain a good posture and proper core stabilization.
2. Stand Up
Standing desks are another fantastic way to get off of those butts at work. By standing while working we are able to utilize all of our spinal stabilizers, as well as, strengthen our legs and glutes. AND, most importantly to me, maintain a proper neck position and reduce anterior head placement!
One of the biggest rebuttals I get when I recommend a standing desk is that they are too expensive. Just like the chair above, you can be as basic or as advanced as you choose. The picture above is the desk that I use. Get this, it's cardboard and folds up absolutely flat. I have used it for 2.5 years and LOVE IT! Sadly, the company has went out of business, but there are plenty of options out there.
I know I know, this seems like a no brainer, but you wouldn't imagine how many people either forget to stretch, or do the one stretch that does nothing but make the problem worse! So, check out the following stretches. Do them for 30 seconds each, once per hour and you should be a happy camper... or worker...nah, camping is more fun. Anyways, stretches, do them.
Above Head Shoulder Stretch (30 Seconds)
Lateral Neck Stretch (30 Seconds Each)
Neck Rotation Hold (30 Seconds Each)
Chin Tucks (30 Seconds) - It's not flattering, but who cares. Make Double
Chair Forward Bends (30 Seconds)
Wall Chest Stretch (30 Seconds Each)
The most common stretch I see people doing is this forward head bend. I understand, the back of your neck and shoulders are tight. But, most commonly they are tight because your head has been in a forward position for too long. By stretching it more in that direction you are just making the problem worse! Too much of a bad thing is a BAD thing!
STOP DOING THIS!
This is a fun topic because it is dealers choice. The most important variable when it comes to exercise is if you do it or not. Just about any type of exercise is going to help your body become stronger and protect itself against injury. Yes, poor posture, especially over a long period of time, is an injury.
When it comes to correcting posture, I do have two favorite types of exercise to recommend.
If you are looking to build some functional strength, increase flexibility and improve your posture, it is hard to beat yoga. If you are someone who is brand new to it, I recommend hitting a class or two. If you love the classes, stay there, join the community and enjoy your new practice! If the group setting isn't for you, there are some great beginner yoga classes on YouTube. But seriously, if you've never done it before, having an instructor to help you learn will be invaluable.
2) Resistance training
Another fantastic way to help your posture while improving your fitness is by beginning a resistance training program. You know what holds all those bones in place? Muscle! So train and strengthen them. If you focus on maintaining proper posture while training, you will inevitably positively effect your overall posture!
If you are an absolute beginner to the resistance training world, again, I recommend you get a trainer, at least in the beginning. It does you no good to work out if your just going to get hurt. It also doesn't help to train poorly.
5. Check Your Structure
Which one of these is normal?
Trick Question, None of the above are positionally normal! A normal curve falls along the green guideline. For all three patients above, this was the first time they've seen their spine and had no idea there was a problem.
This one is pretty though!
One huge factor that most people overlook is how their body has changed over time. So many people show up to our office far too late. I can't even guess how many times "I've just got some neck pain and sore shoulders" has turned into "I had no idea my spine looked like that". When it all comes down to it, once the problem progresses to the point when there is pain, there is also significant structural change as well.
This is why I am such a proponent of everyone getting their spine checked. I would much rather examine someone and find out we don't need to do any correcting, than check them too late.
Let's wrap it up
Have you ever heard of something called job security. Sadly, due to trends in the modern working environment, us Chiropractors have it. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Well that seems good for you." Heck no! Even though I take pride in our corrective work, if I didn't have to do it, I wouldn't. I would much rather work with healthy, happy people and make it my life's goal to keep them that way. I guess if you look at it, that scenario is how it ends up, but it is just taking a lot more work than either of us would like to get there. If I were to break down our corrective care plans the overwhelming majority are desk bound. The sad part about that statistic is that I'm not talking just about people working a desk job. Who else sits at a desk all day? Students! Some kids are sitting at a desk daily, from the age of 5-23. Yuck.
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