In recent years sitting has been referred to as the new smoking. Typical Americans sit at a desk for eight hours a day. And those who work overtime are often sitting for much longer! With all that sitting, postural alignment tends to falter. Our backs get stiff, our necks get sore, and our shoulders hunch. Studies now show that bad posture can increase feelings of depression and zap your energy levels. And in some cases, poor posture can even cut off circulation! But before you start to stress, take a deep breath. Try incorporating these postural alignment tips and exercises that you can do at your desk to your workday!
Postural Alignment Tip Number One: Ear and Shoulder Alignment
Let’s start simple. The goal is to keep your ears and shoulders in a straight line as often as possible as you sit throughout your day. You may find yourself leaning too far forward or backward – a sign your posture is off. When you find yourself hunching or slouching in your chair, take a deep breath and lift your shoulders up to your ears. As you exhale, roll them back and realign them under your ears. You may notice you’re now sitting a little taller and engaging your core! You can even do this exercise a few times to control your breathing on super stressful days!
Tip Number Two: Quit Crossing Your Legs
I think many of us are a culprit of this work habit. If I’m being fully honest, I have been crossing my legs as I’ve typed most of this post! The correct way of sitting in a chair is actually with your knees bent and both feet supporting you on the ground. They should not be crossed or out in front of you. If this is uncomfortable, you can always use books, stacks of filler paper, or empty shipping boxes as something to put your feet on. Crossing your legs specifically can cut off blood circulation. This is why we often find our legs falling asleep as we work!
Tip Number Three: Contract and Release
For those of you familiar with yoga practices, the cat and cow poses are done in most classes to warm up the spine. It consists of contractions and spinal releases while on all fours. Most of us can’t get away with getting on our hands and knees in the office, so this chair version is perfect in a pinch.
Start seated tall at the edge of your chair. Exhale and contract your abdomen and release your head as if someone is grabbing you from behind. Linger in this pose until all the air is released from your lungs. To make this a bit easier, grab onto your desk for support. As you inhale, find that starting position, and then move past it, allowing your back to arch. You should look at the ceiling and open your ribs to take in all the air you can! Repeat this 5-8 times. Each front and back counts as one.
As you finish, your spine should feel awake and a bit more flexible. Make sure you continue to pull your shoulder blades back and keep your chest up as you continue working.
Tip Number Four: Try Using a Lumbar Support Pillow
Objects marketed as “supportive” often get a bad rap. They are associated with aging. And for many, the embarrassment of having to use them is too much. But objects, such as a lumbar support pillow, have so many benefits. They make it easier to find correct postural alignment at the office. The natural inward curvature of the lower spine is maintained. They also keep the alignment of the ears, shoulders, and pelvis. Lumbar support pillows can reduce the strain many of us feel in our lower back. After an 8-10 hour day, who wouldn’t want that kind of relief?
Tip Number Five: Spinal Side Stretch
Here’s another sneaky stretch to do at your desk! It’s basically the opposite of the cat and cow stretches. So instead of contracting and releasing back and forth, we’re going to stretch side to side.
Start again sitting straight up at the front of your chair. As you inhale, fill up your lungs with oxygen and grab your hands straight over your head. As you exhale, lean to the right. Force all the air you just collected back out. Think of reaching long towards the wall rather than down to the floor. Inhale to find that initial straight position and refill the lungs. Then as you exhale, do the same side stretch to the left. Again focusing on reaching out rather than down. You should feel the opposite side elongate and stretch. Do this again 5-8 times. Each side counts as one.
Bonus Tip: Get Up and Move!
This may sound silly, but the more you can get up and move throughout your day, the better. Take the long route to the rest room. Use the stairs when you can. Do some heel raises at the copier or try doing squats as you heat up your lunch. Instead of wheeling around in your chair, actually stand up and move your legs. Keep a water bottle at your desk so you are forced to refill it as you hydrate throughout the day. Every little bit counts!
When the Tips Aren’t Enough
These tips will help, but they will not be the cure to your postural alignment woes. Proper postural alignment takes time and practice. For further consultation and an adjustment, contact us today to schedule an introductory chiropractic session. We can discuss your work routine and postural alignment needs as part of my initial chiropractic workup for you as a new patient to our practice.
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.