You’ve heard it a thousand times, if not from your mother, then from co-workers and even friends: “don’t slouch.” The truth is there no such thing as perfect posture and it remains a highly debated topic. Even physical therapists can’t agree on what constitutes good sitting posture. Most physical therapists address posture in their management of spine-related pain. Interesting enough, systematic reviews done on occupational sitting reveals no conclusive connection with incidence of low back pain. Relatively speaking, there may be postures which are more optimal, especially if you are having neck, shoulder, or back pain. Low back pain is a multifaceted musculoskeletal disorder that involves not only genetic, physical, and environmental factors but also an individual’s thoughts and beliefs.
Standing desks have had a lot of publicity in recent years, but based on the limited research done, there doesn’t seem to be too much benefit over sitting. The quality of current studies comparing sitting with standing are low and show minimal improvement at best when it comes to interrupting prolonged sitting. Sitting for prolonged periods of time impacts your cardiovascular health and mortality. Even if you are relatively active it doesn’t offset the 8 hours or more a day you spend sitting.
Can you even win? Yes! Our bodies were meant to move so whether you stand or sit you need to move to get blood pumping not only to your muscles but your brain! One study showed that light to moderate walking for 2 minutes improve glucose metabolism over a 5 hour period. Two minutes every 2 minutes every 20 minutes that’s all it can take. It sounds like a lot but take those 2 minutes and spread it out to every 30 min. Post a sticky note, add a phone timer, or your when it’s time for your next Instagram post. Just MOVE!
Along with moving there are other helpful ways to ensure that if you are stuck sitting you are doing so in an optimal manner. Ensure your thighs are parallel to the floor and your feet are touching the floor. Your monitor should also be about 18 inches from your eyes (about arm’s length) to avoid having to constantly lean forward or strain your neck. Your elbows should be bent at about 90 degrees and your wrist/forearms supported in a neutral position. If you are someone who relies on tablets or texts frequently also vary the way in which you hold and use the device. Bring the tablet/phone to eye level and use your index finger to scroll or navigate web pages.
These are just a few tips that offer variability in movements and postures. If you feel that your posture is related to the pain you experience then definitely seek out a physical therapist near you. They will help you problem solve and strategize ways to help you work and move more efficiently.
- American Physical Therapy Association. (2018). Sitting Can Be Harmful to Your Health. [online] Available at: https://www.moveforwardpt.com/DidYouKnow/Detail.aspx?cid=6780e6aa-db62-4fe9-aa1c-7202e7a720cd [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].
- Dunstan, D., Kingwell, B., Larsen, R., Healy, G., Cerin, E., Hamilton, M., Shaw, J., Bertovic, D., Zimmet, P., Salmon, J. and Owen, N. (2012). Breaking Up Prolonged Sitting Reduces Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5), pp.976-983.
- Hartvigsen, J., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Lings, S. and Corder, E. (2000). Review Article: Is sitting-while-at-work associated with low back pain? A systematic, critical literature review. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 28(3), pp.230-239.
- Npr.org. (2018). NPR Choice page. [online] Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/17/470713717/stand-to-work-if-you-like-but-dont-brag-about-its-benefits [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].
- Osullivan K, Osullivan P, Osullivan L, Dankaerts W. What do physiotherapists consider to be the best sitting spinal posture? Manual Therapy. 2012;17(5):432-437. doi:10.1016/j.math.2012.04.007.
- Roffey, D., Wai, E., Bishop, P., Kwon, B. and Dagenais, S. (2010). Causal assessment of occupational sitting and low back pain: results of a systematic review. The Spine Journal, 10(3), pp.252-261.
- Shrestha, N., Kukkonen-Harjula, K., Verbeek, J., Ijaz, S., Hermans, V. and Pedisic, Z. (2018). Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
- Runner’s World. (2018). Sitting is the New Smoking- Even for Runners. [online] Available at: https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20796415/sitting-is-the-new-smoking-even-for-runners/ Accessed 8 Jul. 2018.
- University Health Service. Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health | University Health Service. https://www.uhs.umich.edu/computerergonomics. Accessed July 8, 2018.