Back Pain Sitting At Your Desk?

6 Common Bad Habits Sitting at a Desk


Sitting at a desk all day is normal now for many of us. Working from home or an office in front of a computer. If you get back pain or have bad posture, this post is for you! It won't solve all you problems, but it will help. It will help you to keep your Alexander Technique practice going too. So here are some things to watch out for.

1. Is Your Screen Lower Than You Line Of Vision?

If you are using a laptop this is there is no getting around it! The hands fall forwards and the weight of the arms and activity of the hands pull the shoulders forwards over the chest and draw the upper back forwards. The neck correspondingly shortens and pulls the head back to draw level with the screen. This misuse is practically universal. Give your body the luxury of having phone books or something under your laptop so you can look straight at it. Get a keyboard and mouse extension so you don't have to reach up. If you have a desktop it is much easier because the screen is already on top of the PC although you might need to get it a bit higher. 

2. Are Your Hips Lower Than Your Knees?

This one is more common among "the long legged" but is possible for everyone to be doing. Try sitting on a low chair where the level of your hips are lower than your knees. Pretty uncomfortable? If so it's probably because the lower back is out of alignment with the rest of the back. This means that all the weight of the body above the hips is being put through the back of the sitting bones and the lumbar vertebrae instead of being evenly distributed through the body. This of course is an exaggeration of what happens. But you need to been shown the exaggerated view so you can pick up on the subtlety of when it happens at your desk.

If you do notice you are sitting with your knees higher than your hips just stick a phone book (or phone books) until you notice that you have a bit more mechanical advantage when sitting. Take a look at the image of the hips. Take a look at the sitting bones. We tend to think of our sitting bones as the bony bit at the back of the bottom. However, they are much longer than this and run forwards towards the genital area. Weight needs to travel through the sitting bones evenly rather than just at the back. 

3. Are Your Feet In Contact With The Ground?

Again, this can happen to anyone, but is more likely if you have short legs. Try sitting in a high chair so you feet don't touch the ground, to see what I mean. When we do this we can over tense our butt muscles and hamstrings and create too much forward movement in the hips, shortening our stature and loading the spin in bad ways. This one is harder to spot. Something to help with this would be to put some phone books/directories underneath each foot. This allows more length down the back of your leg and creates less interference up the back.

4. No One Is Meant To Sit At A Desk All Day!

Get up and move around every 30 to 50  minutes depending on what you can do. Take a break from compressing your spine. Sitting at a desk all day is mild torture. By design we do not function this way. Get up. Get a timer or something.

5. Are You Using A Bad Chair?

Those ergonomic chairs with wheels on the bottom are not necessarily good. What is good about them is that you can adjust the height and give yourself a good position where your feet are in contact with the floor while your hips are higher than your knees. What is bad is that if the chair has the potential to move a lot on the wheels it can subtly make you tense up your body in order to keep still at your desk. Not good.

OK so in summary I am not saying that you cannot do these things and that they are terrible if you do them a bit. If you use your laptop on the train then there is no much you can do to get around this. What I am saying is that if you spend all day without paying attention to these things you are paying a price and it will come in the form of unexpected pain.

6. Are Your Hands Turned Inwards From The Wrists?

Everytime you move your mouse cursor to the left (if you are right handed) you shorten and tighten your wrist muscles. When you type on a normal keyboard you hands will flex slightly outwards. You do the same thing when you use a knife and fork or tie your shoe laces. This is because it requires skill. Anatomists refer to it as ulnar deviation. When you do the opposite of this, like when you move the mouse inwards, it tightens up your wrists and increases your chances of things like carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injury. 

Also you should download f.lux to reduce your eye tension or something like it to change your devices colour temperature in the evenings.


About the Author Edward Fisher

Hi, I'm Edward Fisher and I believe that everyone can have a life free from back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and many other musculoskeletal pain related conditions. I recovered from slipped discs and sciatica. I spent 10 months being unable to walk. After 3 months of Alexander Technique I was walking again. Now I show others how to overcome their own pain related conditions for themselves.

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