Perfect Workstation Setup Guide
Your posture is everything, from your balance and coordination to how well you breath and possibly even how long you live.
As a Chiropractor I have lost count of how many times I have explained how a patient should sit at work or in their car. I even have an office layout in my clinic, so I can take patients through how to set their own up.
A Common Myth
I do this because I hear the same information repeatedly from patients, that they believe they should sit upright with their hips and knees at 90 degrees, and with their feet planted firmly on the floor. This is incorrect!
Currently, UK office workers sit for an average of 8.9 hours a day, and having the incorrect sitting posture for any sustained period during that time is terrible for your joints and discs.
Sitting Upright Is Bad For Your Health
There is NO research that states that upright posture with your knees and hips bent is in any way good for you.
There IS research that shows sitting upright puts excessive load on the discs of the lower back. This can lead to back pain and varying degree's of wear and tear. Research also shows that reclining back at an angle is much better for the spine. This research has been around for 19 years! That’s longer than I have been in practice and yet I’ve never met a patient who has been taught it.
When standing, you can test your general posture by looking at a picture of yourself stood from the side. If you draw a line from your head to your foot you should be able to pass through your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle with the same line. This is correct anatomy and means your posture is good.
This test seems to have become advice that you should sit bolt upright, maintaining the same line through your upper body. The problem is time. Office workers estimate they sit for at least 54% of their day. Asking the muscles of the body to support that upright posture for hours is too hard for the majority of people, and extremely bad for your joints.
Think about how it feels. Does it feel good? Does it make you relaxed? Do you feel loose? No way! Sitting upright is difficult for the human body as your spine isn't straight. It has 3 normal curves.
Gravity then comes along and you put all your body weight through the spine until it is all resting on the lowest joints. After 10-20 minutes it is likely fatigue will kick in. So you lean on an armrest, creating uneven force on one side, or worse you start leaning forward on the desk.
Leaning forwards puts more pressure through your arms, knees, hips and feet. You also put your head in a forward position, increasing the weight of your head on your upper back and rounding your shoulders forwards.
By trying to sit in a way that keeps this 'perfect posture line' you might actually be spending hours sitting in the wrong way. Trying to do what you have been told in the past was right, actually creates more of a problem.
As an alternative to leaning forward, some people go the opposite way and slouch back into the chair. Not to be confused with leaning back, slouching is when your bottom is forward on the seat creating a gap between your back and the chair so your lower back slumps into this space.
This posture is terrible for you because it places tension through the joints of your lower back as your weight sinks into them.
Lean back! Make your chair and desk do more work. The more you can get them to support your weight the more comfortable you will feel.
By leaning back you now relax your shoulders and keep your posture back. Modern posture is causing the head to come very far forwards, putting stress and strain on the neck, upper back and shoulders.
Think about how it feels. Leaning back is comfortable! By opening your posture up in this way you will even effect your emotions and feel happier.
How To Sit
1. Straighten Your Legs
Move your feet in front of your knees as far as you can so that they straighten, and therefore put less load and weight on your legs.
Knee and hip replacements are becoming normal in life today, which is a terrifying prospect. The fact that humans have started to need bionic joints means we are doing something very wrong in our lifestyle habits. Research puts this down to diet, weight and sitting.
Sitting is a major cause as you have to be careful when putting weight through your legs, at the wrong angle, for long periods of time.
When your knees are at 90 degrees you have excessive load on the cartilage. If you then sit forwards you place your body-weight through the legs. Your knee is now in a loaded, weak position. Add in time where you sit for hours and you may be stressing the joint past where it can cope. Do this for a few years and you might wear those knees out!
2. The Step
An angled height adjustable step is the main piece of equipment you may need for perfect workstation posture.
By using a step you can easily lean the chair backwards and it will help to keep your legs straighter. It makes the issue of reaching the floor easy and helps you feel much more comfortable.
Even if you are tall, leaning your chair back will bring your feet up, so using a step stops this and helps you to remain reclined. As a bonus if it is a rocking angled step, by moving your feet on it you may even improve your circulation.
3.Recline Your Chair
Leaning back does not mean you slouch, slouching is totally different. Slouching is when your bottom comes forwards on the chair and there is a gap between the seat back and you. This posture will cause your lower back to slump back to fill the gap, stressing the lower back joints.
Sit your bottom as far back in the chair as you can and then lean the back of the seat backwards. The chair back should now be taking the weight of your upper body.
Sitting upright puts your weight and stress on the lower back and hip joints. You need to get your hips away from your lower back so they both have less strain on them.
Leaning back not only reduces the load on the joints but by opening your posture it actually changes your emotions. Open posture has been linked to emotions of success, happiness, confidence and optimism.
4. Support Your Lower Back Curve
This is a curve that is part of your office chair that pushes into your lower back curve so the chair can help support you. If your chair has one built-in that's great. If you can adjust it, make sure it is fully out. If not, simply add a foam lumbar roll they normally come with a strap that goes over the chair.
Why Add A Lumbar Support?
Your lower back has a large curve at the bottom, and getting your chair to support this curve means less strain on yours discs and joints. Which means less pain and fatigue all round.
A support stops your back from slumping and supports the curve without any effort from you. It is important to sit back in the chair to prevent you from ‘perching’ at the front. This posture is one of the worst because when you get tired, which will happen quickly, you then slouch or lean forwards.
Sit back and rest your spine.
Let the desk do all the work by lowering your seat so that the chair goes right underneath the desk. Then move the keyboard and mouse back towards the computer. With your chair reclined you have full support for your arms on the table. It is then carrying the weight so your shoulders relax and sit back against the chair.
To help your typing angle, slightly raising the keyboard back and using a wrist rest at the front should help reduce RSI.
The weight of your arms is considerable. This is OK if you are moving your arms around, but sit typing on a computer and your arms get heavier and heavier for your neck and upper back to carry.
You then start lifting your shoulders, tensing your upper back and eventually you cheat and use your chest muscles to help you out by rounding your shoulders forwards.
6. The Screen
Keep your eye level in the middle of the screen. The distance should be comfortable for your vision but its better to change your vision than bringing it too close.
I hear many times from patients that the top of the screen should be at eye level. This makes no sense for your vision. As you look at your screen, without possibly even realising it, you move your work to the middle of the screen. It therefore makes sense to make the middle of the screen your eye level as that is where you are looking. It also stops you from dropping your head down and stressing your neck.
Siting for hours a day is clearly bad for your health. This is research is proven and you probably know it already. Even if you go to the gym for an hour every day it wont reverse hours of sitting.
It takes a few seconds, twice an hour, to reset your sitting, but I hear so many excuses related to people 'not having enough time'. Your brain has an attention span of between 14 and 29 minutes. After that your productivity goes down considerably.
However, if you have a break for even a few seconds, your productivity over a longer period sustained. This means that moving for a few seconds will not lose you time, it may actually gain you more time through greater periods of productivity.
Getting up and moving is like a rest for your concentration, so for those few seconds where you are helping you posture, joints, and general health, you are also waking up your brain. People who move more at work have much higher production rates than people who stay sat still. This has been proven in many studies such as this one by a training company where workers who moved felt a 42% increase in their concentration and work effort.
8. Think Outside The Box
a) Standing Desks
This sounds like the ideal solution if sitting really is bad for your health, and it is true that you will burn more calories, improve your heart function and reduce the effects of sitting if you use a standing desk.
The problem is that standing still is also hard for the body. You have some of the same issues when standing upright as sitting down. Gravity is still there putting load on your joints, and you are still having to maintain your posture.
However, there are good points to standing that far outweigh any potential negatives. Standing will definitely burn more calories, aid your circulation and through general movement improve your overall health.
The best answer is to do both! Stand and sit.
In our experience standing for 20 minutes of each hour would significantly boost your health, and then you can sit to rest your joints. This is not only achievable, but should help to wake up your concentration and your posture.
If you really want to supercharge your workstation, consider sitting on a gym ball for 10 minutes every hour. The natural bounce motion contracts and strengthens your core muscles, giving you a workout at your desk.
This core strength can go towards helping your posture and pelvic floor muscles. This can be so simple to do in a home office, just set a timer on the computer and swap your chair for the ball. The movement can help boost your circulation and therefore your overall health and wellness.
Patients we see that sit for long periods often have similar poor posture because they try to sit upright. What they cause is lower back pain from stressing those joints, tight hip flexors and upper thighs as well as rounded shoulders and forwards neck position. To help this we have to go through a posture routine to loosen the stiffness this posture has created and strengthen the weak muscles. All of this simply because they were taught incorrectly to sit upright.
You can reverse poor posture by doing the right exercises in the right order and learning how to sit correctly is part of this. Generic posture exercises are available anywhere but don’t take into your account your specific posture so you waste a lot of time working the wrong area.
Our expert-designed program, The Posture Solution, will show you what type of posture you have. By knowing your type you can use our extensive experience treating posture to get the best exercises specifically for you, and fix your posture in under 90 days.
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