The Negative Effects of Poor Posture and How to Correct It
It is no surprise that more people are working from home due to the COVID pandemic. A recent study showed about 62% of employees between 22-65 years old say they work remotely at least some of the time.1 With increased opportunities to work from home and a greater number of students participating in online schoolwork, we have seen a rise in postural issues as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.
We have all heard by now the “correct” way to sit in a chair and we know poor posture is bad for us. But why is it bad for us? There are several possible harmful effects depending on an individual’s particular work environment, so we will just review a few of the most common effects.
Increased stress on the spine and discs:
Sitting for long periods of time with a rounded back and forward head position (such as in the red image above) places increased strain on the spine, pelvis, and discs between each segment of the spine. This can result in compression of the discs, causing nerve pain and symptoms. In addition, there is increased compression of the discs of the lower portion of the neck and the joints of the upper portion of the neck in order to look forward at the screen. This could result in further nerve symptoms in your neck and into your arms.
Muscular tightness, neck pain & headaches
The most common form of pain I see as a result of poor posture is neck pain. With prolonged poor posture, the upper trapezius muscle of the neck and upper back becomes tight and can result in headaches.
The pectoralis muscles in the chest can also become tight from sitting with rounded shoulders, often resulting in shoulder pain.
So now that we know the harmful effects of poor posture, how do you correct them? The first and often easiest change you can make is changing your desk setup. The green image above shows a person that is using their stabilizing muscles such as the core, deep neck muscles and upper back muscles.
Proper posture consists of sitting upright in a chair that allows for relaxed shoulders, elbows at a 90-degree angle and feet comfortably rested on the floor. Using a chair with proper lower back support can assist in achieving a good position of the spine. In addition, the screen should be adjusted to eye level. Another effective lifestyle change might be reducing phone screen time and holding your phone at eye level when texting and scrolling through social media.
The final way to combat the harmful effects of poor posture is to begin an exercise program! A recent study showed decreased pain levels in the shoulders, mid back and low back following participating in an 8-week exercise program for posture correction.2
For the best results, you should consult your physical therapist in order to receive a home program that is tailored towards your individual needs. However, these are a few of my favorite exercises to help improve posture, decrease pain and mitigate the other harmful effects of poor posture using just a foam roller and a band:
Supine pec stretch on foam roller
Lay on your back on a foam roller, with your head and pelvis supported. Relax your arms out to the side for a stretch in the muscles of your chest. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
Thoracic extension on foam roller
Lay on your back with the foam roller at the base of your shoulder blades. Arch your back over the foam toller to open up your chest. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then move the foam roller up or down along the spine for an added stretch.
Bilateral shoulder external rotation with band
Hold a resistance band with your palms facing upwards. Keeping your elbows close to your side, bring your hands out to the side by pulling the band apart. Perform 10-15 repetitions.
Go on your hands and knees with a flat back. Then lift your leg backwards while lifting the opposite arm and maintaining a neutral spine position. Repeat 5 times per side.
With all the positives that come with working from home, it’s important to take care of your body by being mindful of your posture, standing and walking around the house frequently throughout the day, and performing regular exercise to help mitigate the negative effects of sitting at a desk.
Steward, Jack. Work Statistics for 2022. Findstack.com. December 6, 2021. https://findstack.com/remote-work-statistics/
Kim D, Cho M, Park Y, Yang Y. Effect of an exercise program for postural correction on musculoskeletal pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Jun; 27(6): 1791-1794. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4499985/#r6)