Whether you work at an office or from home, sitting at a desk for hours on end can wreak havoc on your body.
Over time, it can be difficult to maintain proper spine alignment to prevent pain and injury.
From exercises to ergonomic furniture and accessories, read on to learn how to keep your spine properly aligned for a healthier workday.
Why Your Spine is Out of Whack
Sitting down all day long can wreak havoc on your posture and your back. As you sit, you might begin to slump forward, even if you don't realize that your posture is changing.
Over time, sitting at a desk all day can cause increased pressure on your muscles and ligaments. This pressure doesn't just affect your spine, it can also cause harm to your neck, shoulders, and arms.
One reason people tend to slump is that they start to feel tired as the day goes on. When you're tired, you tend to hunch forward, causing more pressure on the muscles of the upper and lower body.
As your shoulders roll forward, it can increase strain on your back and cause your spine to become misaligned. This results in a myriad of problems including severe back pain that can often be debilitating for many office workers.
When you remain in a seated position, it forces your spine to carry the weight of your body. This can lead to extreme fatigue, which in turn causes the infamous "office hunch" or slump.
Aside from not maintaining the proper spine alignment, sitting too long can also cause circulation problems. If you ignore the pain or don't make active changes, the problem will often become more severe and could result in irreversible damage. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to ensure you maintain good posture to keep your spine aligned.
Spine Alignment Exercises
You may have heard the term "sitting is the new smoking." Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time or remaining sedentary can be as dangerous to your health as smoking.
One way to keep yourself healthy is to perform a few simple exercises. Most importantly, you should stand up at least every 30 minutes to keep your body moving, improve circulation, and to stretch.
A standing desk can help you avoid staying seated for too long. These desks feature adjustable height and will encourage you to remain standing as long as possible while you work.
Try These Simple Exercises
Here are a few easy, effective spine alignment exercises you can do every day to keep you healthy. First, try a few squats by sitting in your chair and standing back up again without using your hands. Do 10 to 12 reps every hour or two, which can improve circulation and increase blood flow.
Shrug your shoulders and move your head from side to side up to 10 times whenever you feel back pain. This simple exercise will release tension in your upper back and neck. It can also be an easy reminder for you to stretch and sit up straight.
Another hack that releases muscle tension is to flex your calves and thighs. Do this about 10 to 12 times every hour or two, and you should notice an improvement in muscle strength.
If you work in a building with stairs, walk up and down several flights in the morning and afternoon. Do this for approximately five minutes each time to improve blood flow. Exercising also pumps more oxygen to your brain, which can improve focus and increase your daily productivity.
Simple stretching improves your posture and keeps your body in tune. Make a note or set an alarm at work to remind you to perform these quick, easy exercises every day for great results.
How to Align Your Spine
You can perform a simple test to check your posture so you'll learn new ways to align your spine. Stand tall with your back against the wall, and bring your chin back toward you. Try to touch your head, shoulders, hips, and heels to the wall at the same time.
If you have to strain in order to hold your body in this position, your spine is likely out of alignment. Thankfully, there are ways to restore your spine's natural alignment so you can get back to feeling normal.
Three key components to proper spine alignment include maintaining proper posture, reducing stress, and participating in regular exercise. You should also use cushions to give you the right support when you sit so that your back and lower body are in line.
Adjusting your posture is one of the most important things you can do to improve spine alignment.
Most of the time, you probably don't even notice that you're engaging in improper posture. However, there are three easy ways you can start to improve your posture to reduce or even eliminate back pain:
- When you stand, try to pull your shoulders back and engage your core. Do this as often as possible until it becomes second nature.
- When you sit at your desk, make sure your computer monitor is elevated so you're not looking down. Stretch as often as possible, and remember to stand or walk around at least every 30 minutes or so.
- You can even improve your posture while you sleep. Place a small pillow under the back of your knees if you tend to sleep on your back, and between your knees if you're a side sleeper.
Some other posture fixes include keeping your feet hip-distance apart while sitting or standing. Pull in your abdomen and avoid tilting your head sideways or backward and forward too much.
As you develop better posture, you'll begin to notice that your pain is starting to diminish. You may even notice that you're more focused and that your mood is changing for the better, too.
Helpful Tips for Proper Spine Alignment at Work
If you're busy at work, it can be easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to your posture. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to restore your spinal alignment and to keep you pain-free.
As you sit, make sure that your eyes are level with your computer monitor. Use a monitor stand if you need to elevate the screen higher so that you're always focusing straight ahead instead of too far up or down.
Sitting at a desk all day can also do a number on your shoulders. Make sure that your shoulders are low and relaxed and not high or hunched forward. You should not feel as if you're always lifting your shoulders while you work.
Keep your lower arms parallel to the floor. Use a desk chair that supports your arms so you don't need to hold them up throughout the day.
Your keyboard and mouse should be close to you so that you don't have to reach far to get to them. Make sure you can use both of these items with your arms bent at the elbow to ensure that they're at a proper distance.
Sit with your feet flat on the floor and without putting pressure on the knees. Putting your toes on the floor is not the right way to sit when it comes to your feet.
More Easy Tips
Your spine has a natural curve that should always be supported by your chair. Make sure your upper back is straight and upgrade to a supportive, ergonomic chair to help you sit correctly throughout the day.
Use a footrest to keep your legs at a 90-degree angle from your body. Taller people may need a higher desk and a higher chair to ensure proper posture. Always sit up straight, and make sure your screen is about a full arm's length away.
When you sit at your desk, you should never lean to one side too much. Avoid resting on one arm for too long since this can cause your spine to curve, resulting in back pain and potential spine misalignment.
Choose ergonomic office equipment including a supportive chair with lumbar support. Your chair should also adjust for height, and you should be able to tilt it back or forward as you need to.
Back and seat cushions with memory foam can also give your spine the support it needs. Use wrist supports for your hand as you use your mouse, and a monitor stand to keep your head and your computer elevated to the proper level.
Preventing Work-Related Back Pain
There are several reasons why you may experience lower back pain as a result of your duties at work. Lifting heavy objects is one of the most common reasons for job-related back pain. Constantly sitting down for long periods of time and poor posture are others.
The three most common causes of back pain at work are force, repetition, and inactivity. Exerting too much force by lifting heavy objects can cause back injury, and it also affects your spine's alignment.
Repetitive motions like twisting or rotating your spine can also result in injury or constant pain. Sitting down for very long periods with poor posture or without the right support is another common cause of spinal misalignment that results in back pain.
Pay close attention to your posture while at work. Make sure that you have a chair that supports your spine and lower back. Utilize tools like chair cushions, mousepads with wrist support, and a footrest pillow to keep yourself seated in a healthy position.
When you lift heavy objects, try to lift with your legs and tighten your core muscles. Keep the object close to your body and never twist while lifting. If you feel that something is too heavy for you to lift on your own, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Do your best to modify any required repetitive tasks so that you perform them in a safe manner. Use back support when lifting, and take frequent stretch breaks.
It's important to listen to your body in order to maintain proper spine alignment. If you notice sudden pain or that you feel the tension in your muscles, it's time to get up and stretch.
Stay Active, Stay Pain-Free
Having a desk job can make it difficult to avoid staying seated for hours on end. However, if you remain active and try to stand up as much as possible, you can do wonders for your posture and your spinal health.
Correct your posture to minimize the amount of gravitational weight placed directly on your spine. Set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to stand up every half-hour or so whenever possible.
Choose the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you come and go from work. Find a buddy who will walk with you for a few minutes during your lunch break. Park your car as far away as possible so you have to walk further to get there.
Little steps toward being more active can make huge strides when it comes to neck and back pain and spinal alignment. Stretch your muscles as often as you can including your arms, legs, neck, and back. Try to stretch at the beginning, middle, and end of every day.
Do your best to reduce your stress levels which can improve your posture and your sleep. Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet to maintain your overall health and wellness.
Say Goodbye to Back Pain
Although sitting at a desk all day can affect your ability to maintain proper spine alignment, there are things you can do to reduce the risk. With the right chair, desk, and good posture, you can get through every day without pain and tension.
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