Is your job causing you pain?

By Nikola Grayshon – UTS Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Management graduate

It’s no surprise poor posture can be a direct consequence of workplace habits.

Regardless, the majority of working individuals continue to spend hours and days on end sitting in front of a computer screen. Thus there is a real need to reiterate the importance of good posture. As well as being aesthetically appealing, good posture enables the body to function economically and also reduces the risk of injury.

Unfortunately, poor posture tends to go hand in hand with shoulder, neck and back pain. The reason?

It all comes down to the curvatures of the spine.

Any slight changes in shape of the spine can structurally manipulate the vertebrae, ligaments and surrounding muscles and therefore contribute to such pains.

A doctor with a patient's x-ray film

There are many types of postural faults affecting individuals today, however, within the workplace environment, forward head, rounded shoulders and kyphosis are the most common:

‘Forward head’ describes excessive cervical lordosis (extreme forward protraction of the head). This stresses the lower cervical vertebrae and causes both a forward shift in the center of gravity and muscular imbalances. Symptoms include pain and muscular tightness in the neck. Subsequently, individuals working with their head down or slouching for long periods of time are at high risk.

Additionally when performing tasks, such as typing, there is a tendency to medially rotate the shoulders (rounded shoulders). This too weakens the muscles of the upper back and radiates pain from the neck towards the shoulders and back.

Furthermore, kyphosis, otherwise known as ‘hunch back’, has rightfully gained a bad reputation. Kyphosis places great strain on the spine via anterior compression of intervertebral discs and stretching of posterior ligaments. Consequently weakening the muscles of the back and tightening the muscles of the chest, hence triggering back, neck and shoulder pain.

These postural faults promote the onset of degenerative disc problems, such as a herniated disc. And hence posture within the workplace should be evaluated and back pain management strategies should be revised.

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5 tips to combat poor posture in the workplace:

  1. Do the office errands

Surprisingly the office coffee run has more benefits than first thought. Taking regular breaks from the office chair every hour will minimize the stress on the spine and counteract the possible postural consequences of sitting.

  1. Get an ergonomic chair

 An ergonomic chair will discourage the development of kyphosis and ensure the spine’s natural curvatures are supported.

  1. Place the computer screen at eye level

This will help prevent ‘forward head’ and ease neck pain.

  1. Stretch

Stretching will help alleviate pressure on the vertebral joints and hence relieve neck, back and shoulder pain. If practiced everyday, stretching helps restore good posture.

  1. Don’t do it alone

To eliminate shoulder, neck and back pain via the maintenance of good posture, takes time and practice. By assessing and monitoring individual progress, physiotherapists can facilitate this process and provide tools and techniques to improve posture.

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