One can have the perfect chair, use a headset, and be sitting at a workstation that is ergonomically correct in every way, and still develop musculoskeletal discomfort if he/she doesn’t make it a habit to take mini-breaks to change positions, stretch, etc. We all often lose track of time when at a computer, as we are focused on the task at hand and are not thinking about the muscle tension that is slowly developing. If possible, periodically getting up and moving away from the workstation is preferable, as this relieves some of the lower back stress that has developed while sitting. The trick is to develop some way of reminding oneself that it is time for a break. Programming something on the computer (Microsoft Outlook) to do this or setting an online timer are possible solutions.
There are certainly other times besides at the office when we demonstrate poor posture. How we lift things, whether light or heavy, has a tremendous effect on our backs. I find patients tend to think about their backs when lifting heavy items, such as a piece of furniture, but give little thought to proper posture when bending over to pick up a pencil. The back needs to be protected all the time. (This is especially true when handling children.) When watching TV, if your favorite spot to sit every night is that old sofa or easy chair, neither of which is offering much back support, it is pretty safe to assume that your spine is not in an ideal posture. Just like with your mattress and box springs when sleeping, the level of support provided by what you sit on at home is important as well.
Yes, I submit that our mothers were right when telling us to sit or stand up straight. Unfortunately, the majority of us didn’t take their advice to heart and demonstrate poor posture habits, at home and work, that put us at risk for developing chronic back and neck problems. If our home and work environments are not conducive to maintaining proper posture, we need to evaluate what can be done to improve things. Even if you have never given it much thought before now because you have yet to develop any serious discomfort, any change you can make to reduce stress on your spine by improving your posture will increase the chances of your continuing to do well. Plus, better late than never when it comes to obeying Mom.
Dr. Steven Vollmer is a doctor of chiropractic (DC) and Diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management (DAAPM) in clinical practice at Cole Pain Therapy Group.