How many hours do you spend sitting down behind a desk at work every week? In addition, you probably also spend a lot of time sitting down at home. Guess what normally happens to people when they sit down for long hours?
Slouching happens and I bet it happens to you as well.
When you spend all that time focusing on something interesting in front of you e.g. a computer screen, smartphone, television or book, it is almost as if the shoulders just want to round forwards and inwards and that your head wants to lean forward.
What happens is the muscles that help stabilise and keep your spine upright fatigues, then instead of using your muscles to keep you upright, you let the spine take the heavy lifting. It might feel very relaxing at first, but it gives rise to many issues in the long run.
Your Posture Is Pliable And Adaptive
If you spend 8 hours slouching at work every day, your muscles and joints will adapt. Some muscles become short and tight, while others become long and overstretched. In turn, this affects your posture pulling it excessively in the direction of your tight musculature.
In other words, slouch all day every day and that is exactly the kind of posture you will get – a slouching / hunched-over posture and it will become tough sitting in any other way.
About 3 years ago I had a terrible posture due to years of slouching. I had developed a crooked upper body posture and it caused stiffness and in the end a painful shoulder injury.
What Is a Good Posture?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a perfect posture and even to this day, it is still controversial what good posture is exactly.
What I can say with confidence, is that good posture is about having your joints, bones, and muscles aligned in a way where they can work effectively and efficiently.
You want the impact or force that is being exerted distributed in your body in a good way so no single part is being worked excessively compared to others. With good posture your body can perform well while minimising 1) wear and tear on joints and bones and 2) risk of injury and pain.
While good posture is not about being able to balance an encyclopedia on your head while you sit or walk, it does involve having a neutral spine where the ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles all align while you are standing or sitting. In other words, a hunched-over or slouching posture is not a good posture.
The Problems With Poor Posture
For everyone who is part of the daily office grind, the hunched-over posture or slouch is an all too familiar sight and is a common side-effect of working hard behind your desk every day.
Hunching over your workstation is associated with many issues and here are some:
- Soreness, stiffness or even pain in the neck, shoulders, upper, lower, and middle back
- The not so aesthetically pleasing rounded shoulders and forward-leaning head (think Mr. Burns from the Simpsons)
- Pinched nerves leading to tingling sensations, e.g. in the hand and arms
- Decreased range of motion
- You appear shorter, up to several centimetres
- Headaches and migraines caused by tight neck, traps and chest muscles
- Spinal discs degeneration
- Compressed abdomen affecting both breathing and digestion negatively
While some issues might come as a surprise to you, I am sure that soreness and stiffness in areas such as neck and back are not. A sore neck is probably one of the most common effects of slouching and wide-spread among office workers. That is why a quick neck massage is a sure-fire way to score some bonus points with your colleagues, and at my previous job, one colleague had a Pulseroll massage gun. The percussion therapy used with the massage gun helps to ease soreness and prevent future injury.
According to the findings of one report, an average adult in the US will spend 2 hours and 55 minutes using his or her smartphone every single day!
That is an alarming number of hours which by the way doesn’t even include laptops that have similar problems. To get the portability of smartphones and laptops that so many people enjoy (myself included), manufacturers have had to sacrifice their ergonomic design and it is taking its toll on our bodies.
The awkward positions we put ourselves in when using these devices are fuel to the fire and make your posture even worse. Typically it leads to forward head posture or “text neck”.
What Now? I hope this could serve an eye-opener and get your attention. Perhaps your posture improved while reading this.
With that being said, how can you avoid frightening things like back pain, indigestion or developing a posture like Mr. Burns?
That is what I am going to elaborate on in part 2. Learn how you can improve posture at work here.
About the Author
Marcus runs the site Strengthery.com where he likes to write about weight training, weight loss, and overcoming the many challenges of our modern lifestyles. He prefers a balancing approach to health and fitness where the amount of effort needs a corresponding gain to be worth it. He is also a massage junkie.