This picture, so popular among physical therapists, highlights the “ideal” seated posture if you’re working at a desk. Truthfully, how many of you have the perfect ergonomic set up, either at work or at home? Are your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle? Do you think about your wrist angle? Do you measure the distance between your head and your computer screen? If you do, good on you! Most of us probably don’t.
However, in times of quarantine, I suspect most of our posture looks something like this:
There’s a plethora of information out there that tells us there’s “good” posture and “bad” posture, and that “bad” posture can cause a slew of problems. A viewpoint published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy in August 2019 stated there’s little evidence supporting the idea that bad posture causes pain. Instead, moving in and out of various postures should be the new ideal.
Even if you do have perfect ergonomics, check yourself. Don’t sit all day thinking that because it’s ideal that you won’t be tired. Sitting in “ideal” posture is hard and most of us tend to move in and out of it, anyway. Our bodies were meant to move. Make a conscious effort to check your posture often throughout the day. If you’ve been focused and sitting, then stand, even if it changes your wrist or neck angle. When you get tired of standing, sit down.
The same strategy applies for those of us who have spent more time on the sofa recently than we normally would. Having a fully flexed spine as you curl on the couch won’t necessarily cause you back pain, but don’t stay there all day. Sit up tall or stand while watching Netflix. When you fatigue, sit down again. It’s as simple as that. If you’ve been slouched on the sofa with the laptop on your lap, stretch so you move your back into extension and bring your arms overhead. Stretch muscles that may be tight from sitting in that position. If you’ve been standing, bend forward and try to touch your toes to stretch your back and hamstrings. Arch your upper back to stretch between the shoulder blades. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to keep working or binge-watching.
The moral is that it’s okay to have “bad” posture (who’d have thought?) if you move into a different posture at some point. Humans are supposed to move, and the more you move, the better you’ll feel.
By Laura Vroman
(Image credit: https://www.leiterphysicaltherapy.com/handouts.htm)