14 posture hacks to ease aches and pains

Chronic pain can destroy your wellbeing and negatively impact the quality of your life.

Even low-level aches and pains that persist, or come and go throughout the day, can derail your mood and outlook.

Sometimes injury is to blame, but commonly it’s our own bad habits — starting with posture…

You know that sitting upright and holding your head in line with the shoulders is essential to good posture. But what about a broader posture…  one that includes your sitting position in relation to our work station at the office?

This, too, is vital, as how we sit and maneuver while working at a desk all day contributes greatly to the aches and pains of the low back, neck, shoulders, and wrists.

Today we will look at some guidelines to help create a broader working posture and workspace to help us reduce unnecessary posture-induced pain and improve our daily wellbeing. To do this we will look at guidelines for best working seated posture and also the “posture” or arrangement of our workspace.

7 ways to improve seated posture

Because most of us sit a third of our days at a desk, assuming a proper seated posture can go a long way to reducing aches and pain. After all, neck and shoulder pain often result from muscles that constrict in order to balance the head that otherwise would tilt to one side, or fall forward from sloughing or other poor seated posture habits.

When it comes to seated posture at a computer or working at a desk, you must be aware of your head, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs and feet. Sounds like a lot, and it is, so here are some tips to help. We’ll start from the bottom up:

  1. Keep your feet flat on the floor (avoid crossing legs or being too high that they dangle)
  2. Sit so your thighs are parallel to the floor and your hips at 90-degrees (forget reclining)
  3. Sit up tall with your spine erect (no slouching)
  4. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed
  5. Bend your elbows at 90-degrees (adjust chair or desk height as needed)
  6. Keep wrists poised at their neutral position, neither tilting up nor down
  7. You want to look straight ahead at your screen, not down or up (raising up or tilting down causes head postural issues that lead to muscle contraction and neck and shoulder pain)

If you can work on the above, 50 percent of your work “posture” will be corrected, thus reducing chances of self-induced muscle cramping aches and pain by half.

7 ways to improve workspace posture

Now let’s take a look at the workspace, which is usually a desk, computer, keyboard and mouse, and various stationary items and documents.

  1. Invest in a decent desk chair that supports the lower back and is stable.
  2. When possible do not store large items/boxes under the desk, unless you can maintain enough free leg space.
  3. Adjust your desk height (many have adjustable ‘feet’) so that you keyboard and mouse are at elbow height
  4. Adjust your computer screen (use a stand or stack of books) so that the top of the screen is at or slightly below your eye level
  5. Ensure the screen is at a comfortable viewing distance (1.5 – 2 feet away from our head)
  6. Use a document holder (either stand-alone or connected to the screen) to hold documents you are reading or typing from at the same height/distance as the computer screen. (This prevents having to tilt your head to look down at the document the back up at the screen).
  7. You want all of the items you use most frequently (e.g., stapler, post-it notes, pens, etc) within arm’s reach of your keyboard.

With these additional improvements to the workspace posture you can reduce your self-induced workspace aches and pains by 100 percent. Well, the physical ones anyway; the stress-induced issues will be discussed in another article.

General tips

  • Experiment to find what works best for you, taking into consideration both your own posture and the structure of your workspace.
  • It’s also a very good idea to get up every half hour and “shake loose” any tension, to stand up during all phone calls, and to get up and walk around for a bit every hour or so, even for a minute or two.

These small suggestions can change your physiology enough times to derail those aches and pains from sitting at a desk all day.

Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.