Simple ways to ease pain from sitting all day
The way you sit can be the difference between enjoying your day, or ending up with an achy back, a sore neck, as well as a slew of related injuries. Here’s what you can do to stay healthy and on top of your game.
More of us are working at a desk than ever before. According to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased by 83% since 1950. While this can come with some great benefits — like more flexible schedules and the ability to work from home — it can take a toll on your health if you don’t take the right precautions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that one-third of work-related injuries were related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). A big cause of MSDs: workspaces. Whether you’re working from home or back in an office, it’s important to pay attention to your workspace’s physical setup.
These simple adjustments from physical therapist, Bryan Williams, D.P.T., of Concierge Physical Therapy in Washington, D.C., can make your workspace more comfortable and keep you free from injury.
Tip #1: Keep your eyes up and hands low
This means elevating your computer monitor or laptop screen so it’s at eye level. You want your elbows to be at a natural angle. Williams recommends using a wireless keyboard that you literally put in your lap.
Tip #2: Use a chair that supports your lower back
Your chair is a key source of back support during the day. That’s why you want to avoid sitting in a couch or a soft chair, if you can. While comfortable, they make it easy for you to slouch and round your back.
Instead, you want to find a chair that, when you sit back, supports the natural curve of your spine. If you’re working in a straight back chair, you can use lumbar support pads, rolls, or pillows to give your back the support it needs.
Tip #3: Invest in a footstool
This is particularly important for shorter people whose legs may not reach the floor. A stool slightly elevates your feet to give them extra support and can take pressure off the lumbar spine (a.k.a. your lower back), Williams says.
Tip #4: Avoid crossing your legs
“That's an absolute no-no,” Williams says. When you cross one leg over the other, you rotate your pelvis over one side. That asymmetrical position can create tremendous pressure on the lumbar spine.
Tip #5: Take note of your posture regularly
“Once we start working and get involved in mental activities, we go back to our preferred positions,” Williams says. “Suddenly you realize you have been in a bad posture for hours.”
Top #6: Invest in a headset or speakerphone
Avoid cradling the phone between your head and shoulder, which stresses the neck muscles.
Tip #7: Speak up
If your work involves typing long documents, research dictation software that will autotype for you.
Tip #8: Get up and move around every 20 minutes
Take a stretch break, walk around the house, or even go get your mail.
Need some inspiration? Try these simple, feel-good stretches that will boost your mood, ease achy joints, and help you sit with proper posture.
1. Seated toe touch
Sit on a yoga mat or another flat surface with your legs stretched out in front of you. Keeping your spine straight, lean forward, reaching your hands toward your feet until you feel the stretch in the back of your legs. Hold for 20 seconds, rest, and repeat two more times.
2. Shoulder raise
Lie flat on your back, sit in a chair, or stand. To prepare, roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Then slowly lift one arm until your hand is level with your shoulder. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat with the other arm. Work your way up to 10 repetitions at a time.
3. Seated butterfly
Find a comfortable seat with your legs out in front of you, and bring the soles of your feet together to touch. Place your hands on your thighs or feet. Keeping your spine straight, exhale as you lean forward. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, rest, and repeat twice more.
4. Spinal twist
Sitting with your legs extended, cross your right leg over the left and try to put your right foot flat on the floor. Wrap your left arm around your right bent knee and sit up tall, lengthening your spine as you twist. Hold for 60 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.