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Sitting Down On The Job

Mar 14, 2008
We have become a nation of professional sitters. If you are an office worker, computer operator, or a student, you probably spend a good deal of your time sitting. You can walk into any office or school, all around America, and find people sitting with their lower back rounding out, their head craning forward and their upper back slumped forward. Poor sitting posture is the cause of many aches and pains, especially if you sit for long periods of time.

You may think your back gets a rest when you sit, but the truth is, sitting puts forty percent more pressure on the discs in your lower back than standing does - and that's if you sit with good posture. If you are slumping, the pressure is even greater and back muscles have to work harder to try to compensate for this extra pressure. By the end of the day, your back and neck can give you much trouble and discomfort.

By stopping the slouch, supporting the back properly, and avoiding the forward-head position, you will be able to work more comfortably and productively.

Replacing or modifying your office furniture is a good start. Fortunately, more manufacturers are producing furniture and accessories with good posture in mind. Ergonomically designed furniture can help reduce the user's fatigue and discomfort, and help increase productivity. Keep in mind that a piece of furniture is ergonomically correct for you only if it fits your particular body.

In any case, furniture alone can't help your posture. You also have to become more aware of how you sit, and you need to take little breaks during the day.

By far, the weakest part of people's back, in this day and age, is right across the middle back. Slumping forward over a desk, computer or book weakens this area of the back. A vicious cycle is set up. The weakened muscles allow you to slump further and further. The more you slump, the weaker the muscles get. Also, sitting in a poor posture weakens the abdominal muscles. Those two areas need to be addressed first. You need to strengthen the muscles across your mid back and in your abdomen.

Desk Exercises

Neck Glide: Brings the head back over your shoulders; greatly relieves neck strain.

1. While standing or sitting, gently lift your rib cage. Now, simply pull your head back over the middle of your shoulders. Think of trying to touch an imaginary wall with the back of your neck. Don't tip your head back, as this arches the neck.

2. Hold for ten seconds. Do this any time you notice you've been leaning your forward while working.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Strengthens the muscles between the shoulder blades and in the middle back; try this one the next time you have a tension headache!

1. Lift your rib cage. Think of pulling up with your midsection.

2. Squeeze your shoulder blades toward one another and then press them down slightly toward your waistline. Hold for a slow count of ten.

3. Repeat often.

Elbow Press: Strengthens the muscles of the middle and upper back as well as the shoulders.

1. Sit in a chair without touching the backrest.

2. Clasp your hands behind your head. Lift your shoulders toward your ears and then press them down away from your ears.

3. Gently press your elbows back ten times. They won't move very far, but you'll feel this in the muscles between your should blades. Concentrate on feeling your shoulder blades squeeze towards each other.

4. Relax by letting your torso lean forward and rest on your thighs.
About the Author
Janice Novak has a Master's Degree in Health & Physical Education and is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and wellness consultant. Her program improves health, decreases sick days and improves productivity, alertness, energy and motivation. Visit Improve Your Posture.
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