Updated: Aug 27
Day after day, sitting (or maybe standing) at a desktop or laptop can generate a lot of muscle and joint stress. Anything less than perfect posture is a recipe for pain. The placement of the cranium over the shoulder girdle, the points of rest for the elbows, the amount of sway in the lumbar spine, the distribution of weight between the feet, thighs and buttocks all are delicate details that must be considered when setting up a posture-positive work space.
Do you use a standing desk? Please check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPFUKbipJHs
Different body types come into this discussion with the length of the arms (forearms and upper arms), the length of the spine versus the thighs and legs and the position and type of computer, desk, chair and peripherals needed to complete tasks and projects that each of us flesh out sitting at a computer.
I would put in order of importance (of sitting) for posture: #1 – head position, #2 – where the elbows rest, #3 – angle of the spine, #4 – thigh and leg positioning.
For emphasis on #1, if you hold a bowling ball out in front of you (arms outstretched) compared to holding it close in to your torso, you know that the outstretched arms will tire quickly. It is the same if you hold your head out in front of your shoulders. After a short time, your neck and upper back start to ache or burn because of the weight of your head that is unsupported by the rest of your spine.
For #2, if you have to hold up your arms in front of you with no support, you will soon feel the stress in your shoulders. Now, rest your wrists on a table or desk in front of you. Compare resting your wrists to resting your elbows on the table or desk. Which one feels better for your shoulders?
#3, Sit with your low back unsupported and slouched. Now lift and arch your lumbar spine - putting more weight onto the bones of your buttocks and not the gluteal muscles and other padding there. Which feels better? If you have back, neck or shoulder pain, and neither posture feels okay, please call my office to schedule a consult.
#4. Read next paragraph please.
To experience good head posture: next time you sit in your car, put the seat in an upright position and then rest your head against the headrest. This should feel pretty comfortable. If you have trouble with this, then your head forward posture is severe and you need help. Otherwise this is a great way to drive your car and sit at your desk (even without a head rest). For elbow position look at the pictures and note how the arm rests support the weight of the arm and shoulder. This is more important than supporting the wrists.
Now, sit with your spine upright, neither leaning forward or backward with your low back supported. This is the best for your spine. If the seat is too deep, this is not possible. A person with shorter thighs needs a chair that adjusts for seat depth. People with shorter lower legs may need a foot stool. If the chair is set real low, it may be too low for proper arm positioning, so the fix is to raise the floor (with a foot rest).
A good chair should adjust for thigh length (don’t you wish couches would too!), upper arm length (with arm rests) and of course overall height of chair. An excellent video that covers many of these issues is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLY03KrcpKI (5 minute video)
To work long hours on a laptop, it should be raised up so the top of the screen is level with your eyes and use a separate keyboard and mouse if needed. Thanks for reading and putting these suggestions to work for your health.