We’ve covered how you can improve your posture on the road to a #HealthyNewYou. However, many of us spend a lot of time at a desk or texting and answering emails on our smartphones, which presents an even greater problem in terms of back pain and overall health. We tend to hunch over our computers and phones, which can put as much as 60 pounds of extra weight on our spines.
Don’t let your desks and phones weigh you down! These tips will help ensure your work and phone habits don’t leave you in pain and at risk of other health problems.
1. Get up often.
Prolonged periods of sitting can increase stress on the back, shoulders, and neck. It can also increase your risk of blood clots. Make sure you get up and walk around a bit at least every hour to stretch out and get your blood circulating. Walk over to the kitchen to get a glass of water (this way, you stay hydrated too). Try not to rely too much on email or instant messaging to communicate with your coworkers. If you just have a quick question, walk over to his or her desk to talk, rather than sending your question in an email or message.
2. Your desk setup is important.
When you’re sitting down at your desk, evaluate your setup. When you are sitting correctly, is your computer monitor placed so that you can see it without moving your neck. If it’s positioned too low, you could be hunching over to compensate. You’ll also want to make sure that your keyboard and mouse are positioned so that you can reach them with your arms at approximately a 90-degree angle. Use specially-made stands or books to prop your monitor and/or keyboard to the right height.
3. Look down with your eyes, not your whole head.
This is important whether you are at your desk or texting on your phone. When you get caught up in what you’re doing, you tend to hunch over without realizing it. As we just discussed, it’s important to keep your computer monitor at eye level so you aren’t tempted to slouch while you’re working. Ideally, you should also hold your phone at eye level to avoid text neck, but your arm can get pretty tired if you need to hold your phone up for a long time. If having your phone or computer monitor at eye level isn’t an option, that doesn’t mean you need to hunch over. Train yourself to look down with just your eyes, not your whole head. It may take some getting used to, but your neck and shoulders will thank you.
4. Try a standing desk or stability ball.
Standing desks and stability balls are becoming more and more popular in the office setting as a solution to sitting down all day. Some people claim standing desks make them more aware of their posture and have helped them to lose weight. If you’re new to a standing desk, you might want to consider getting a barstool or tall chair so you still have the option to sit if you need to. Instead of standing desks, some office workers are swapping out their desk chairs for stability balls, claiming they help to engage the core, hip, and leg muscles. However, it is important to note that if you are unable to maintain proper posture while using a standing desk or stability ball, neither will help you in the long run.
5. Neck and shoulder stretches help relieve tension.
If you’re guilty of hunching over while texting or working at your desk, you’ve probably got tightness and tension in your neck and shoulders. First, bend your head forward, bringing your chin in toward your chest until you feel a stretch in the back of your neck. Then, bend your head to one side as if to touch your ear to your shoulder, and repeat on the opposite side. This should stretch your neck and the top of your shoulders. Hold each stretch for a count of 5, and repeat at least 5 times.
Does your desk setup help with your back pain? Have you found a way to avoid text neck? I want to know! Tweet me your tips or pictures @GleiberMD with the hashtag #HealthyNewYou. Let’s have each other’s backs and stay motivated to make positive health and lifestyle changes.
In our next #HealthyNewYou article, I’ll give tips on how you can maintain a healthy weight to relieve your back pain and live a healthier life.