Recent studies have shown that the average American spends between 8 and 12 hours every day on either their computer or smart device. That equals over 80 hours per week and well over 4000 hours every year in front of a screen. Unfortunately, the vast majority, if not all, of this time is usually spent in less than optimal postures. This page will explain the effect that poor posture has on your health and give you tips on what you can do to help improve your posture.
One of the main causes of neck pain that we see in practice is poor posture. The longer you sit in front of a computer, or stare at your phone, the more likely your head is to begin to shift forward. When this happens, more stress is placed on the muscles in the back of the neck, which leads to neck pain. You can find more information on neck pain here.
Sitting for long periods of time puts increased stress on the lower back. Also, the longer we sit, the tighter the muscles in the back of the legs, the hamstrings and hip rotators, become. Tight hamstrings and hip rotators have been linked to lower back pain. For these reasons, people that have poor posture are more likely to suffer lower back pain. For more detailed information on lower back pain, click here.
Prolonged screen time has also been linked to headaches. Not only can the glare from the screen cause headaches, but many tension headaches are caused by problems in the neck. If you have bad posture, the muscles of the neck are more likely to be tighter, which can cause stress to the back of the head, leading to headaches. Click here to find additional information on headaches.
If, like most Americans, you have to spend your work day in front of a computer, you need to make sure that you have your workstation set up properly. This means that your monitor should be directly in front of you, with the top of your monitor at eye level. If you use two monitors, set yourself up directly between the monitors. This way you are always turning your head side to side evenly and not using one side of your neck more than the other. A complete guide to proper ergonomics can be found here.
I often hear patients tell me that they get to work at 8:00 in the morning, and sometimes don’t get up from their desk until it is time for them to go to lunch 3-4 hours later. This is terrible for our spines! The longer we sit, the tighter our muscles get, which leads to neck and back pain. I advise patients to set an alarm on their phones or computers for every 30-45 minutes. Use this as a reminder that it’s time to stand up, do some stretching or walk around the office for a minute or two. Then, when you sit back down, make sure that you are using good posture. The longer we sit, the harder it is for us to maintain good posture.
Poor posture is usually the combination of tight muscles in the front of our chest and neck and weak muscles in the upper back and back of the neck. For this reason, it is important to stretch and strengthen the proper muscles, in order to improve posture. Neck stretching and strengthening exercises can be found here. It is also important to make sure that you are stretching your hamstrings and hip rotators, since these muscles become tight during prolonged sitting, regularly to help avoid lower back pain. Exercises for the lower back can be found here.
Patients often ask if there is a brace that they can wear to improve their posture. Unfortunately, in most cases, posture braces do not help correct posture. While they may help you sit up straighter while you are wearing them, posture braces do nothing to help strengthen the muscles that are weak in those that have poor posture. For this reason, the brace only works while you wear it. To truly improve posture, you have to stretch AND strengthen.
Spinal misalignments are another common effect of poor posture. When the muscles of the neck and back become tight, they can start to pull on the vertebra and cause them to shift out of their normal alignment. These misalignments lead to increased neck and back pain, and even headaches. Chiropractors are trained to find and correct these misalignments, relieving pain and even helping to relax muscles, which can help improve posture. However, correcting the cause of these misalignments, in many cases bad posture, is important to keep the misalignments from occurring in the future. For more information on chiropractic care, click here.