If you’re like me and most of the modern day working class, most likely you spend most of your day sitting in front of a computer. All through out the day we’re sitting down, whether this be at the desk, driving to and from work or watching TV while relaxing. While most of this sitting is a necessity, over time this takes a huge toll on your back and ultimately your posture.
Luckily there are some really easy steps you can take to overcome the negative effect that sitting takes on the spine. I’ve summarized the 3 quickest and easiest ways for you to improve your posture and eliminate back pain caused from long duration sitting.
1. Identify Your Postural Improvements
First things first, stand in front of the mirror and turn to the side. The purpose of this exercise is to see which aspects of your posture have room for improvement so you can be conscious of what needs work. Stand naturally without trying to make any effort to stand taller or more aligned.
Things to look for:
There should be a vertical line between the ears, the shoulders, and the hips. If any part of your body isn’t in alignment, then you’ll notice that one of these three points isn’t on the same vertical line.
1) If your ears are more forward than your shoulders, then it means your crooning your neck forward. Often caused by too much computer work. Your head should sit vertically on top of the spine.
2) If your ears are further back than the shoulders, you’re leaning back with your head. This is a good indication that you’re learning too far back when you sit.
3) If your hips are more forward than the shoulders, you’re reclining. Again, an indication that you recline when you sit.
4) If your hips are further back than your shoulders, then you probably lean forward at your desk.
Take note of what is the area of improvement and write it down on a Post-it. Stick it to the edge of your monitor. This will serve as a constant reminder to remember your posture.
2. Take a 2 Minute Break Every Hour
Stagnation is the enemy of great posture. Whenever you sit for extended periods of time, the muscles of your back will start to tighten and shorten. When the muscles are short then tend to pull you forward or backwards. To alleviate the muscles, simply taking a 2 minute break every hour will keep your muscles loose so they don’t pull you out of alignment.
A simple stretch routine:
1) While seated, perform some head rotations. Start by dropping your right ear to your right shoulder and make some extremely slow counterclockwise circles. Continue for three rotations then reverse the rotation to clockwise for three more rotations.
2) Stand up and rotate your shoulders. You can do this with your arms at your sides or with your arms out like the letter T. Rotate your shoulders at any pace you desire for 30 seconds in each direction. This will loosen up the muscles of the upper back known as the cervical and thorasic region. Great for people that tend to hunch forward.
3) Reach up and touch the sky. Get a full body stretch that will open up the muscles in front of the hips. For additional stretch, lean back slightly but remember to ease off if you feel any discomfort in the lower back. 10 seconds is enough.
4) Hinge forward at the hips and let your hands hang towards your toes (see image). This provides immediate relief to lower back pain and helps reverse the effect of bad habits such as reclining. 20 seconds.
For just 2 minutes every hour, you’ll start to notice some immediate differences in the way you sit and stand, while being able to work without the nagging pain caused by sitting.
3. Use a Yoga Ball as a Chair
A quality ergonomic chair is an easy way to take the effort out of remembering ergonomic rules. They enable you to sit straight and make sure you’re always in alignment.
A fully decked-out ergonomic chair can unfortunately be very expensive. Furthermore, the postural benefit you gain from these chairs is highly dependent on how you set it up. Just because a chair is labeled ‘ergonomic’, doesn’t mean you can’t slouch or lean back in it.
One easy and affordable way to take the hassle out of getting an ergonomic chair is to get your hands on a yoga ball. When sat on a yoga or stability sphere, your body must balance to keep you upright. You won’t be able to lean forward or back. Instead the muscles of the core make sure you stay upright with great posture. You’ll also get a slight workout while you’re sitting due to the engagement of the core.
My favorite one is the Gaiam Custom Fit Adjustable Balance Ball Chair (shown below). The review site that I found it on (http://www.Yogaballchairs.com/) rates it a 5/5.