Almost daily in my office I hear, “I know my posture is terrible and I know that’s why I’m in pain,” or, “I’ve really been trying to improve my posture at work”, or something along those lines. We’ve probably all heard about “text neck” or how we need to straighten out our shoulders more or not slouch so much. But how significant is all this really? Well I’m here to tell you that the perfect posture does not exist. Why is this? Because our bodies were never made to be in one prolonged position, no matter what the position is, no matter how “perfect” the posture! Does this mean it’s okay to sit all day super slouched with your feet up on your desk? Probably not. That’s because the perfect posture is one that is always changing.
Our bodies were designed to move. Even if you sit up perfectly straight at your desk, shoulders back and head aligned over your collar bones, for a prolonged amount of time, you’ll probably start to feel some stiffness or aching after awhile. Our joints love movement and blood flow—it’s what keeps them nice and mobile and happy. So what does this look like practically for someone who works at a desk or works from home? I’ve got some pointers for ya.
If you’re working from home, the best thing you can do is vary your work station. For example, when I’m working at home, I like to spend part of my time sitting with my laptop at my kitchen table and part of my time standing and working at my bar-height counter. Switching every so often between sitting and standing keeps me moving and specifically prevents my low back and neck from spending too much time in one position. There are also little things you can do if you don’t have the option to stand. While I’m sitting, I like to have a pillow or lumbar roll supporting my low back. Is sitting with your back rounded necessarily a bad thing? Nope! It can be, however, if you’re there for too long or have a sensitive low back. I also stack a couple books under my laptop to keep it at eye level so I’m not having to strain my neck so much to look down. And regardless of whether I’m sitting or standing, I always prioritize micro-breaks in between working to do a few neck stretches or walk a lap around my house. Keeping the blood flowing is not only great for your muscles and joints, but it’s also great for improving focus and attention span.
When it comes to stretching, something I commonly preach to my patients is the importance of recognizing the positions our bodies spend most of their time in, then moving them in the opposite direction. Our bodies love movement in all directions and can get cranky if they get too much of one direction and not enough of the other. Let’s use the hips for example. If you sit a lot, your hips are often going to find themselves in a flexed or bent position. To combat this, think of exercises like walking, couch stretch, pigeon pose, or other hip opening movements.
Below I’ll include a few of my favorite work-from-home or desk job stretches to prevent stiffness and get you moving, even at your desk. Give them a try and, as always, be sure to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns. All contact info can be found under the contact tab.
Exercise #1: Chin retraction:
Start in a relaxed sitting position. Place two fingers on your chin, and glide your chin straight back toward your spine (helpful tip: pretend like your chin is on a shelf and you’re sliding it straight back). Glide it as far back as it will go, then release pressure. Repeat this for ten repetitions, then repeat every couple of hours while you’re working.
Exercise #2: Mid-back rotations:
Start on the ground in a modified child’s pose (see photo) and place one hand on the back of your neck. Then rotate and drive your elbow up toward the ceiling, following with your eyes. Rotate as far as your body allows, then return to neutral. You should feel this in between your shoulder blades. Repeat this rotation motion ten times, then be sure to do the same thing on the other side. Revisit this exercise throughout the day or as needed to relieve upper/mid back stiffness and improve thoracic rotation.
Exercise #3: Cat/cow:
Cat/cow is a common yoga exercise. To perform, start on the ground on your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your knees should be directly under your hips. For the first part of the exercise, “cat”, arch your back up toward the ceiling as you drop your head toward the floor. For “cow”, reverse this motion. Your spine should sink between your shoulder blades toward the ground as your head looks up. Repeat for 10 repetitions, then repeat every couple hours to relieve mid and low back stiffness.
Happy exercising, friends. 🙂