In today’s digital age, many of us find ourselves spending long hours glued to our chairs, whether in an office or at home. The demands of various professions and occupations often require us to sit for extended periods, making it crucial to prioritise our spinal health.
Prolonged sitting without proper care can lead to a range of health problems, from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to mental health issues and musculoskeletal disorders, including chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of maintaining good posture and share tips on creating a healthy workspace.
Impact of Prolonged Sitting on Spinal Health
The way you sit during your workday can have a profound impact on your spinal health. Poor posture and inadequate ergonomic support from your chair or workstation can lead to chronic neck and back pain. In fact, low back pain is a leading cause of disability globally, with work-related musculoskeletal disorders ranking as the top work health and safety (WHS) problem in Australia.
Maintaining Good Posture Is Key
Prevention is always the best strategy when it comes to maintaining spinal health in your workspace. Whether you’re working at a computer, driving for hours, or engaging in any other task that requires sitting for extended periods, here are some simple steps to help you maintain good posture and minimise the risk of musculoskeletal disorders:
- Keep Feet Flat: Ensure your feet are flat on the ground or use a footrest for support.
- Choose an Ergonomic Chair: Sit in an ergonomic chair that provides proper support for your lower back.
- Hip and Knee Alignment: Position your hips slightly higher than your knees.
- Stay Relaxed and Tall: Ensure your head/chin is not poking forward.
- Proper Hand Position: Your hands should rest slightly lower than your elbows.
- Monitor Screen Height: Adjust your computer screen so your eyes are looking straight ahead, not down.
- Laptop Users: If using a laptop for extended periods, consider using a separate keyboard and mouse to maintain proper neck and shoulder posture.
Cultivating Healthy Habits for Spinal Health
Beyond maintaining good posture, it’s essential to develop healthy habits to safeguard your spinal health. Here are some practices to incorporate into your daily routine:
- Regular Breaks: Take breaks every 30 minutes to stand up, move around, and stretch.
- Variety in Posture: Whenever possible, change your posture, such as by standing while talking on the phone.
- Sit-Stand Desks: If available, use adjustable “sit-stand” desks to alternate between sitting and standing.
- Active Meetings: Consider organising meetings that involve walking while talking.
- Accessibility: Arrange your desk so that items are within easy reach to minimise unnecessary movements.
- Encourage Movement: Place rubbish bins away from desks to encourage short walks.
- Stretching: Incorporate regular stretches throughout the day, using tools like the Straighten Up app.
- Lunch Breaks: Step away from your desk during lunch breaks and enjoy some outdoor walking.
- Face-to-Face Communication: Opt for face-to-face interactions with colleagues where possible, rather than relying on emails or calls.
Employer’s Role in Minimising Workspace Injuries
In Australia, employers have a responsibility to keep workers safe from the risks of prolonged sitting. To help prevent health risks from prolonged sitting, employers should ensure ergonomic design and seating, and incorporate ‘sit-stand’ workstations where possible, allowing for workers to vary their posture and movements alternating between sitting, standing and walking at regular intervals.
Download the Straighten Up App for Workspace Safety
To break up long periods of sitting, consider using ACA’s Straighten Up app. The app contains a perfect three-minute exercise routine that is also great for improving your spinal health and stabilising core muscle groups. The app also allows you to set daily reminders about sitting right, stretching, taking breaks, drinking water, and improving your posture! It even has a nifty augmented reality feature, which allows you to see good and bad postures in different scenarios. To learn more about the Straighten Up app visit www.chiro.org.au/resources/apps/
Consulting an ACA Chiropractor for Workplace Injury Prevention
Intervention is your best defence against workspace injuries. Consult an ACA chiropractor to assess your overall spinal health and receive advice on posture, stretches, and exercises to improve flexibility, mobility, and spinal health. To find your local ACA chiropractor, visit our ‘Find a Chiro’ search engine www.chiro.org.au/find-a-chiropractor