This article was written by Dr. Taryn Thomas, a Chiropractor and Medical Acupuncture Provider practicing in Burlington, ON at the Burlington Sports and Spine Clinic. She graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 2019 and attained her Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Diploma from McMaster University. She is also a graduate of Western University, having received her Honours Specialization in Kinesiology degree in 2015.
Since working from home is looking more and more like our new normal, we thought it would be helpful to have Dr. Thomas share some recommendations for how you can improve your posture and avoid neck and back pain. All of these tips are relevant for any other office setting so definitely read on if this is something you struggle with. Alright, over to Taryn.
Have you ever thought about the number of hours you spend sitting during the work day without taking any breaks? You may also feel like you’ve been less active lately due to being quarantined during COVID—i.e., not leaving the house much, working full days from home and missing your gym workouts and exercise classes (or movement in general?!). To top it all off, you might find your posture is becoming worse and you’ve began experiencing some aches and pains in your neck and back…
I hear you! There’s good news though. There are some specific strategies and simple exercises you can implement into your every day routine to help improve your overall posture and eliminate your neck and back pain (and even prevent it from coming back!).
Simply put, posture refers to your body’s overall alignment with respect to gravity (1). Your spine has three natural curves throughout it and having “good posture” means maintaining these curves to some degree. If your spine is in this “ideal alignment” position, then the muscles and ligaments that attach to it will likely function more efficiently, with less overall strain on them as well (1).
Engaging in PROLONGED, STATIC sitting positions is usually where most of us develop these poor postural habits over time. This is because while you’re sitting and focusing on your work in front of you, your head tends to project forward and the rest of the spine tends to follow suit—all bending into that forward or “hunched over” position. Maintaining this prolonged posture can produce increased muscular tension and stretch on the ligaments attached to the spine, and this is how back and neck pain can occur!
I would like to point out however, that the action of sitting isn’t actually as “bad” as it’s made out to be—it becomes an issue if you sit for prolonged periods of time without incorporating movement variety into your day. Staying in any one position for extended periods of time without movement can contribute to discomfort. Changing your position and moving regularly is more important than trying to maintain “perfect posture” (4). Other factors that can contribute to poor posture include psycho-social factors like stress, mood disorders and fatigue, so it’s important to address these issues as well (2).
In conclusion, there is no one size fits all perfect posture. Sitting does not necessarily cause poor posture or musculoskeletal pain, but static, prolonged postures in general are where we tend to run into problems. Take frequent movement breaks, become more body aware, improve work station ergonomics and most importantly, find an exercise you love and practice it daily—your body will thank you.
Disclaimer: The suggestive exercises above are provided in the form of education and do not replace a diagnosis. It is not meant to substitute a consultation with a health care provider, but simply intended only to educate.
Dr. Thomas is a very active, health oriented individual, who truly values the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle via proper nutrition, sleep, physical activity and mental health. She has a genuine passion for contributing to the optimal well-being of others, utilizing her thorough knowledge of chiropractic care in conjunction with the above-mentioned pillars of health.
Connect with Dr. Thomas on Instagram: @dr.tarynshealthylife