FMH? Sitting with good posture can save your back
“I have absoutely noticed more postural issues with my clients at Rancho Valencia,” says Polly Brasch, licensed massage therapist and treatment trainer at Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in San Diego, California. “Since many of them started working from home, I’ve noticed a big increase in clients with mid and upper back pain.”
This largely comes down to not only working from home, but also working from home in compromising positions. “A majority of these customers, when asked, admit to using their laptops while sitting cross-legged on their comfy couch, or lying in bed with their back against the headboard,” Brasch explains.
While it can be tempting to get cozy under a blanket on the couch, doing so repeatedly (say, five days a week for months) can have serious repercussions. According to Brasch, poor posture can lead to back pain, muscle weakness, and more.
“Postural health is integral to our health and well-being,” says Brasch. “Good posture keeps blood and lymph moving, and it also helps prevent a sore back from sagging and the imbalances created.” On the other hand, poor posture allows certain muscle groups to strengthen while others weaken, she warns. “Sitting all day can also impact digestion, cause fatigue and make our lymphatic system sluggish, causing puffiness (oedema) in our feet and calves. This is why the way you sit when you work from home is so important.
Signs that your WFH posture is not ideal
There are a few tell-tale signs Brasch sees in clients who allow their posture to become less than ideal during the workday:
1. Waterproofing on the dominant side
“What I see most often is that one side (usually a person’s dominant arm) is much tighter around the shoulder and neck,” she says. This can lead to pain in these muscles as well as headaches.
2. Pitfalls and stiff shoulders
“When we’re using a keyboard or mouse that’s on a desk that’s too high, for example, it forces us to engage our upper traps and lifting shoulder blades,” Brasch says, talking about those upper-stretching muscles. from our back and along the back. sides of our neck. “After eight or more hours on a computer, it’s like doing micro reps, which makes muscles fatigued and prone to soreness and injury.”
3. Back and buttock pain
Brasch says she also sees tight lower back muscles, herniated or bulging discs and tight glutes from working in an unhealthy position for too long.
Sitting with good posture, step by step
So what can you really do about that? Brasch notes that his clients who have been able to invest in ergonomic chairs and desks have shown improved postural health. If you can, she suggests using a sit-stand desk with a hydraulic lift so you can adjust your posture throughout the day to appropriate heights for sitting and standing.
But she readily admits that not everyone has the space or the budget to afford the ideal home office setup. Fortunately, simply following a few fitness cues can help protect your postural health.
1. Flat surface, at elbow level
Whether you’re sitting or standing, the best position for your laptop is a flat surface at elbow level. If you are working from the couch, a lap desk might help. “Use your keyboard and mouse pad at a level where your elbows are bent at a 45 to 90 degree angle, keeping your wrists and hands aligned,” says Brasch. “It relieves the shoulders and wrists and allows good blood and lymphatic circulation.”
2. Feet flat on the floor, knees at 90 degrees
“Your chair height should allow your feet to sit flat on the floor with your knees at a 90 degree angle,” she says. If you can afford to invest in a more ergonomic chair, Brasch recommends trying out options at a store to check the fit. “A chair for someone who is 6’4″ won’t work for someone who is 5’4”, she says.
3. Sit up straight
Remember what your mother taught you: Sit up straight. “Have your hips and glutes in the back of the seat,” says Brasch. “The backrest should touch your back, more to remind you to sit up straight than to completely relax!” Alternatively, you can sit on the edge of the chair, using your abdominal muscles to hold yourself up.
Do you find yourself slouching? Strengthen the muscles you need for better posture with this quick Pilates workout:
How to Correct the Damage Caused by Bad Posture WFH
It’s great to have a game plan for sitting with good posture, but what if you’re dealing with the painful effects of the past two years at home?
1. Try massage therapy
If you can, plan for body work. It’s not just a luxurious treat for relaxation, it’s a health treatment and a way to manage (and correct!) pain. “The more massages you receive, the more your muscles are trained to relax faster and react less to stressful stimuli,” says Brasch. For example, she says, if your shoulders and neck are too tight, book two massages a week to treat those areas, then reevaluate. “If you still have a lot of tension, you may need a few more sessions. Once it has calmed down, schedule your massage once every three to four weeks for ongoing care.
2. Consult a physiotherapist
These appointments might be covered by your health insurance, which sometimes makes them a bit more affordable than massage therapy. “Physiotherapy can be a great option, especially when working with specific injuries, like herniated discs, to retrain your muscles and alignment,” says Brasch.
3. Hydrate and take breaks
In case you need another reminder to drink water, “staying hydrated really helps your recovery!” Brash said. She suggests setting an alarm every 15 or 20 minutes to get up and walk around for a few minutes, roll your shoulders, shake your arms, and drink some water. “After a few moments, you’ll automatically start taking those breaks our bodies desperately need to keep us energized and moving throughout the day.”
4. Experiment with new wellness treatments
In her work, Brasch is able to see how different clients respond to different treatments. As for trends, she says, “I’m seeing more and more clients booking a lymphatic drainage massage, which is the stagnation that can come from poor posture.” Also popular and recommended massage therapist? “Body scrubs and baths are great for relieving inflammation and invigorating or relaxing the nervous system.”
Oh hi! You sound like someone who loves free workouts, discounts on top wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Subscribe to Well+our online community of Wellness Insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.