Blog #4

Correcting Desk Posture  

Now as I get into this, I want to clarify a few things.  This is NOT going to be the most in-depth, scientific analysis, journal citing article.  I admit I do not have a doctorate in physiotherapy, rehabilitation or kinesiology.  If you know my story, you know I am a strength coach, personal trainer, and online coach.  The advice and examples you will get from this article are based on my knowledge and experience of working with hundreds of professionals with desk jobs and posture issues.  So let’s get into it.

As you should know, the human body was not made to sit all day.  Not to start going all hippie on you, but tens of thousands of years ago humans had to hunt to eat, run from prey, and build their homes.  Physical activity was just a way of life.  Now we are a shadow of the mammal we used to be, and some of us can’t even walk to the shops, but that’s a story for a different day.  What I’m trying to say in this paragraph is, humans are meant to move. 

With the digital age and of course us becoming a smarter species, many of us choose to have a job which is sedentary – ie a desk job. And as you sit reading this, I bet you aren’t considering HOW you’re sitting (Hopefully I’ve got you on the edge of your seat with some absolute knowledge bombs upcoming).  Plus the fact that during education we are sitting at a desk from the age of 5 which further encourages the sitting culture.  But again, that’s another story for another day.

You should know that sitting for 8+ hours a day at work, plus 1+ hour commuting to work, +2 hours sitting on the sofa, is not good for your joints.  Typical problem areas are the neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, and hips.  You can feel tightness in many other areas, but these are the common problems.  And if you’re reading this, you’re probably a rugby player, so you’re joints are fucked enough as it is!

There are a number of ways to correct this negative position you find yourself in – and I will delve into them now.

  1. Stretching.  Whilst this will not counteract sitting for 10+ hours a day, it will certainly help.  You can go as basic as copying your rugby warm-ups, or as advanced as having a private yoga tutor.  Both will help, just one will probably help faster. This is the most basic and quickest way to attempt to improve posture.

2. Improving Mobility.  Mobility is working on increasing the range of motion within a joint, unlike stretching which is improving the flexibility of a joint.  For example if you are lying face down on the floor with your arms out like a starfish (most Saturday nights for you I’m sure). Flexibility would be if someone walked over, grabbed your wrist and tried to pull it away from the floor.  You put no effort in and an external force lifts your arm.   Mobility on the other hand would be your bodies ability to lift the shoulder on it’s own, using the muscles in the rear of the shoulder and upper back (I hope that makes sense).  Improving mobility is a more long term way of correcting bad posture, because it strengthens the weaker muscles, rather than just improving the ability to stretch the inactive ones.  For example it would strengthen the muscle along your spine, so you sit more upright.

3. Stand Up Desk.  Now this feels totally alien at first, but after a few days of it, it feels quite normal.  I remember going from my desk job to the gym, and standing all day felt like a nightmare, but after a few weeks it felt normal (how strange is that, to stand all day felt alien to me, what useless creatures we have become).  Now it is possible to have bad posture whilst standing, you still need to stand in the correct position and not hunch over, however standing at work would still be better than hunching over your computer.

4. Eye Height Of Screen.  I remember in my short months working in the city the directors would go on about making sure the screen was at an optimal height.  My 22 year-old self would always think “oh shut-up grandad”, but now I see the concern.  I see it so often, people working on a laptop suddenly turn into the Hunchback of Notre Damme.  And if they are working on low tables in a coffee shop, oh dear, a sight to behold.  Isn’t it funny that lower back pain is one of the highest reasons for sick pay today, whereas in the agricultural era it never existed – anyway moving on.  A while back I purchased a laptop case with an added stand, and it feels so comfortable on my neck and shoulder working with the screen at a proper height. The same goes for your phone.  I know you might look strange using your phone at head height, but if you’re on your phone for a long part of your day, make sure you don’t use it on your lap, as you’ll be further encouraging your poor posture.

So there’s a couple of things you can do to improve posture, or a few things to consider anyway.  My closing remarks are below:

What I would suggest, for the average professional who still wants to be active and not start looking like Mr Burns from The Simpsons, is to always warm up efficiently before a workout.  And a warm-up doesn’t mean a 5 minute run, use a mobility based warm up to open up the joints before you exercise. 

Stretch whilst at work.  Create a small 5 minute routine that will open the shoulders, stretch the neck and lower back.  Nothing to strenuous, but something you can do at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Get a check up.  No, not with your GP who will tell you “Take paracetamol and come back in 2 weeks”.  Go and see a physiotherapist, a rehab trainer, a mobility coach. They will assess your body and give you specific exercises for you.  Make this a monthly or at least quarterly session.

So I hope this has helped you.  If you find it useful, please let me know and share it with a friend.

If you have more questions, please get in touch at regansrugby@gmail.com

Stay strong