I sit on a swiss ball at work, how’s your desk set up?

Have you ever found yourself hunched over your desk?  Constantly having to move to get comfortable? Suffering with back and neck pain? Have you looked at your desk set up, to see if it is to blame?

‘Sitting is the new smoking’

You may be wondering why I have chosen to sit on a Swiss ball.  I simply didn't like sitting on a chair anymore, I was constantly hunching over, in pain and it wasn't the most comfortable position. Luckily for me we have Swiss balls in the gym, so I went and got one and replaced the chair. 

What I have found while sitting on a Swiss ball;

  • I don't hunch over as much, and when I do I notice quicker because my position on the ball completely changes my posture.
  • I feel like I am holding myself in a  better position , not just sitting but when walking too.

It has been said that sitting is becoming the new smoking, what does this mean?  In simple terms it means that sitting down is as bad for your health as smoking.  Anything over 3 hours a day is potentially detrimental to your health, so by the time you have commuted to work and sat at your desk all day you are well over the 3 hour mark.  When you are sat down for long periods of time blood flow is decreased, postural problems can arise, muscles tighten and weaken, and organs don't functions as well as they could.  It is said that sitting down can take years off your life. More details here.

You may not be able to change the fact that you are sitting down at work but you can correct your desk set up and do exercises at the desk. This will help increase blood flow and muscle movement around the body while at your desk.

We regularly treat neck, back and shoulder pain in offices. The desk position and posture while sitting at a desk is often the cause.

 

Poor computer screen set up or the use of smart phones and tablets is leading to an increase in neck and shoulder pain, and in much younger people.  One of the reasons is du to posture when using technology.  On average the head weighs 10-12lb, every 10 degrees you look down e.g. when texting, this adds an extra 10-12lb of weight onto the head.  As a result the neck muscles can fatigue and tighten causing pain, you can see how this soon builds up over a period of time. 

Symptoms of a bad posture in your working environment:

Tension / Aching in;

  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Lower back
  • Stiffness in the spine

Tightness though;

  • Hip and thighs
  • Hamstrings

Regular Headache's or migraines

Poor posture while working in one position for a prolonged period of time can lead to tight aching muscles.  To reduce the tension building up you can carry out exercises designed for you at your desk and at home.  These exercises will reduce aching and stiffness while sitting and help to get the blood flowing around the body.  Getting the blood circulating around the body will help you feel more energised and increases your ability to focus.  As when you are sitting for a period of time the blood circulation to the brain is reduced, therefore hindering its capability to focus and work to its full potential. 

You may not know this but headaches and migraines can be because you are carrying tension though your neck and shoulders, combined with stress this causing muscle strain, resulting in a headache.  

We have put some exercises together to help you at work and at home.

Exercises

You ideally want to be moving from your desk every 30 minuets, to do some stretches or walk a lap of the office.  This gives you a break from sitting and staring at a computer screen.  You want to do exercises which are going to improve your posture while sitting. Strengthen the back, core and posture muscles, relaxing the neck and shoulder muscles. 

What can you do to improve your posture?

  • Where is your computer screen positioned, do you look down at the screen?
  • Desk height and chair height.
  • Look at what you sit on, does your chair support you?
  • Are you reaching for your mouse and keyboard?
  • Exercises to do at the desk/around the office.
  • stretching and posture classes such as pilates and yoga

What are your options?

  • Bring your mouse and keyboard closer so you are not over reaching
  • Use arm and wrist support for your mouse
  • Try to adjust your screen height to look straight at it or slightly down
  • sit straight on to your computer, not at an angle
  • Pick the right chair or chair support

Screen Height

The top of your computer screen should be inline with your eye level.  Placing a small mirror on the computer screen that you can see your eyebrows in when sitting correctly will be a good reminder to sit up straight.  When you cant see your eyebrow anymore you know you have hunched over and need to reset yourself.

Basic Swiss Ball

This creates a unstable platform for you to sit on and it is harder for you to sit in a hunched position on the ball. While sitting on the ball you are using your core muscles to stabilise yourself.

Swiss Ball Chair

I didn't even know this existed until I started to write this blog! A Swiss ball chair is a Swiss ball in a frame. These frames hold the ball, making them more stable than just a Swiss ball. 

However you would need to check health and safety for your office.

Add to your current seat

  • Balance cushion
  • Seat wedge
  • A towel folded over, under your sitting bones to tilt the pelvis

These are to help improve how you sit on your current chair.  Help to straighten your spine.

 

Standing desk.

These are adjustable desks which you change depending on your height and you just stand up at the desk rather than sitting down.  This would take some getting used to standing up all day.  As in one of my previous jobs I spent the majority of the day stood and for the first week my legs would ach, my back would ach and my feet would hurt.  It would be uncomfortable to stand just because I wasn't used to it.  But it soon became the norm and I could quite happily stand for hour after hour.  

Postural sensor

There are different ones which clip on your shirt and attach to the spine, they either vibrate when your posture has sloughed or send a message to your phone or computer to alert you.

Alternatively, pick a que during your day to remind you to correct you posture.  For example each time the phone rings and you go to make a brew check and correct your posture and try a few stretches from the videos above.  This way you are trying to prevent posture issues and pain developing.

So how are you sitting now?  Have you straightened yourself out while reading this? 

If you do suffer from discomfort at work or back pain and would like some help with treatment,  exercises or more posture advice, then please get in touch!