Working from home? The right posture and how to get it right

Working from home? The right posture and how to get it right – Celia Phillips

Yes, I know this is a fight physio blog. We target a combat audience, some of us are bag assassins and mat magicians by night, but some of us have regular desk jobs by day! Celia is a physiotherapist working at Physio-Logic. I got her to write a little opinion piece on working and sitting desk posture. Now that the pandemic has shoved a lot of us to be in front of the computer or phone more, living our day to day life with better posture allows our bodies to be less stressed and more primed for training! 

Many of us work in office-based roles where we sit for a large portion of our work day. The recent pandemic has pushed more people to remote working and working from home type situations. Therefore, for many of us our work spaces have altered significantly or we are simply propping up on the couch with our formal tops, but still with our pajama bottoms on.

Although there are many upsides to working from home, like no commuting, the casual Facebook browse during a team meeting, or a pantry full of snacks, for many of us, it has come with new aches and pains from sitting in positions for long periods of time that our bodies are just not used to.

Our bodies do not like to be still for long periods

Our bodies do not like to be still for long periods. Let’s try an experiment, keep your hand still in front of you. See how long you can keep it there without a twitch. I’ve tried it, I lasted about 30 seconds, only because I know the outcome is pretty inevitable. We are designed to move! Sitting is a position that keeps us still, but there are sitting positions that place less strain on the body. 

Most commonly people will complain of lower back pain or pain around the neck and shoulders after some time at their work station.

When it comes to lower back pain there are usually a few contributing factors. So if this is a problem you are encountering, here are a few things you can try:

Firstly, think of the pelvis as a bowl, now we want to keep the bowl upright in order to keep all our contents contained in the bowl. When we slouch, the bowl is tilted back and the contents of the bowl would be spilling out the back.

Secondly, our hip and knee position can also place increased strain on the lower back, try and sit in a chair where your hips and knees are at the same height and you can touch the ground easily to have your ankles directly under your knees.

Thirdly, think of the height of the work surface. If we are leaning forward onto a low table over time this can cause discomfort in the lower back. It’s not that the movement is bad for us, it’s just the amount of static time in that position. For example, if you bend your finger backwards, even within a comfortable range, after a minute or so you would likely start to feel some discomfort as the soft tissues are under strain. For short periods this is fine but prolonged strain can lead to increased tension and discomfort.

When it comes to upper shoulder and neck discomfort, the principles are similar to that of the lower back:

Firstly, our shoulders then want to be ’stacked’ over our hips, our arm close to our side, and our chin tucked slightly to ‘stack’the head on top of the shoulders. When we slouch or hunch forward again this is placing the upper shoulder muscles under increased strain and will cause discomfort.

Stack everything!

Secondly, try and make sure that if you are working on a screen that you are not looking down at the screen. The top of the screen shoulder be in line with the height of your eyes when sitting in an upright position. This can be tricky when working from a laptop so a secondary key board and mouse are a great addition to help improve your seated working posture.

Thirdly, I recommend for you to move regularly. Any prolonged posture can get uncomfortable. I recommend to set a timer to go off every 20 minutes. It has been said, that your best posture is the very next one. When you stay still for a bit, you start to shift and slouch, or your mouse creeps further away from you, or you head moves closer to the screen etc. When the timer goes off just see how your sitting position is and readjust accordingly.

Another great trick is to drink plenty of water, regular bathroom breaks can help you get up and move avoiding prolonged positions. 

Stay safe while working from home!