I was recently asked to consult on an ergonomic desk set up so I thought I'd share a little bit about how to prevent pain due to sitting all day everyday.  The answer simply is stop sitting all day everyday.  Easier said right?  You NEED to get up.  Sitting at a desk for upwards of 8 hours a day simply is not an option for your body.  Throughout your day you are sitting in a slumped posture, back rounded, shoulders rolled forward, head drifting closer and closer to your computer screen.  As you sit in this position you are creating adaptations that you do not want.  Your pecs are becoming short and tight along with your upper traps.  Your deep neck flexors, lower traps, and lats are inhibited and long.   Soon you feel pain in your neck, shoulders, low back, pretty much everything hurts so how do we combat that, or better yet prevent it entirely?  

Don't waste your workout!

If you workout in the morning then sit in the typical desk jockey position for the following 8 hours you are literally healing and repairing muscle and tissue in this terrible posture.  You can't possibly try to undo 8 hours of working followed by 4 hours in the lazy boy with a one hour workout.  You need to change your lifestyle.  Make living a pain free life a  priority and that starts with consciousness of your position and frequency of movement.  

What to do?

Try setting an alarm every 30 minutes to remind yourself to get off Facebook and stand up.  Look away from the computer screen and stretch.  A few of my favorites to reverse your position are the cobra, which essentially is the exact opposite position at every joint than sitting, and the couch stretch which helps with those abused and neglected hip flexors.   

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Cobra Stretch

The cobra stretch is awesome.  It is used extensively in clinical practice to treat disc derangement patients according to the McKenzie method but look at the following table adopted from Mike Reinold showing the joint by joint positions in a typical sitting posture compared to that of a cobra position...

Joint                                      Sitting Position                   Cobra

Ankle                                     Dorsiflexed                          Plantarflexed

Knee                                       Flexed                                 Extended

Hip                                          Flexed                                 Extended

Lumbar Spine                        Flexed                                 Extended

Thoracic Spine                      Flexed                                 Extended

Lower Cervical Spine            Flexed                                 Extended

Upper Cervical Spine            Extended                            Flexed

Shoulders                               Forward                              Backward

Head                                       Forward                              Backward

Couch Stretch

After sitting for hours on end those structures on the front of our hips are incredibly tight and stiff.  Open up those hips and reverse your passive seated position with this beautifully painful stretch.  

In conclusion, there is a laundry list of ergonomic suggestions to use at your desk but without a doubt the best piece of advice I could offer would be to get up and move with some frequency.  Reverse the position you are in and try to move as much as you sit. 

Resources

  1. Reinold, Mike.  The Best Postural Stretch? http://www.mikereinold.com/2010/06/best-postural-stretch.html

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