The Office Posture
Do you dread the working week because you know you're in for 5 days of an aching neck and stiff lower back? Not only are these aches and pains causing you grief but its also decreasing your productivity meaning works piling up, and the boss is getting snappy but all you can think about right now is how to become a millionaire over night so you don't ever have to deal with this s**t again.
If you're fortunate enough to actually pull off the million dollar idea and never have to spend hours behind a desk again then cograts, you no longer need this article. If you know you're waking up to head to work the next day then pay attention. The 'office posture' is very common in today's day and age purely because of how the workplace and technology has evolved over time. This is not the issue, we have to move with the times. The issue is how we conduct ourselves during and outside work. The office posture is characterised by a few key features:
- Rounded shoulders
- Forward head position
- Excess low back extension
- Protruding stomach
Think about how you sit at work and the amount of time spend in that position. I'd imagine 80% of the people (if not more) reading this are slouched over looking down at a computer, phone etc for hours on end. So how the hell does just sitting cause so much discomfort you ask? Well lets go through the two main areas of discomfort, upper back/neck and low back.
Basically what the office posture does is cause some muscles to switch off and others to become over active. What happens is that excessive amounts of time in this position tighten muscles through the anterior part of our upper body (pec major, pec minor, anterior deltoids) as they are held in a shortened position. Muscles that are under active as they are sitting lengthened and switched off include mid and lower traps and rhomboids all of which retract and depress our scapula. This imbalance causes a decrease in space of the glenohumoral joint which results in pain during certain movements the shoulder. The discomfort in your neck is your upper traps trying to support your forward head posture which again generally arises form the imbalances just explained ( where your shoulders go, your head tends to follow).
Again we have a case of over active and under active muscles causing imbalances. The sitting position has most of its movement at the hips and therefore muscles associated with the pelvis are the areas of concern. The hip flexors are left in a shortened position therefore are over active and the glutes and hamstrings are lengthened and switched off. Another element of this slouched sitting position is that our core muscles are not needed to hold us up. What all this results in is something known as anterior pelvic tilt. When we stand up what we have is a pelvis that is rotated forward leaving the glutes, hamstrings and abdominals switched off meaning the only area left to support the torso and rest of the upper body is the lower back!
What Can You Do?
How do we go about trying alleviate these issues? First of all I want to stress the best treatment is regular weight training with a properly designed program (posterior chain dominant) but there are simple exercises that EVERYONE can do during a work day to keep these imbalances at bay. I'd recommend you do some of these every hour or two and they will literally take you less than 5 mins so please don't tell me you can't because you're too busy!
Chest stretch - Stand side on to a doorway and place your hand on it with a straight arm. Rotate your body outwards and away to stretch your chest, hold for 30 seconds each side.
Trap stretch - Put one hand behind you back, the other will gently pull your head to the side and slightly forward to stretch your neck. Stretch both sides for 30 seconds.
Scapula retraction - Bring shoulders back and down, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Repeat 10 times.
Thoracic rotation -Sitting upright, cross your hands over and touch your shoulders. Keep your head still and rotate your upper back (thoracic spine) whilst keeping you lower body still. Perform 10 each way.
Band pull apart (if you have a Thera band) -Hold Thera band at each end and pull it apart keeping your arms straight. Try get your hands as far away from each other as possible. Perform 15 times.
Hip flexor stretch - Kneeling on one knee place the other leg out in front resting on your foot. Sit up tall and squeeze your glutes. 30 seconds each side.
Leg crossover - Laying on your back, keep shoulders on the ground and role one leg over your body and touch the ground. Repeat 5 per side.
Standing glute squeeze - Stand up tall and squeeze glutes for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Glute bridge - Lay on your back feet at 90 degrees. Lift your hips up creating a bridge by squeezing your glutes and then hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times
Another thing you need to do is just be conscious of how you're holding yourself during the day. Try as best you can told hold a good posture during your entire day and eventually it will become natural. I'll stress again, these exercises don't take much effort at all when you think about how it could potentially help minimise discomfort, therefore increase workout out put and decrease stress as well as save you expensive trips to massage therapists etc its probably worth the 5 minutes it takes you to complete. Combine this with and effective exercise program and see for yourself.