It’s 6pm, you’ve been sat at your desk since lunch with a quick mid-afternoon loo break. Your shoulders are slouched forward, you’ve got your bum tucked under and you’re wondering whether that back and knee pain will bother you later. You briefly wonder whether there’s anything you can do about it but conclude it’s just a sign of getting old. Contrary to what that inner voice may be telling you, back pain is not a symptom of ageing and there are things you can do at work to help get rid of it… especially back pain and other pains that are brought on by what you are doing at work.
A little bit of theory…. Irrespective of industry the postures we get into at work, and hold for a long time, will impact our bodies. Imbalances between the front and back, left and right, and top and bottom will start to prevail. The more we hold certain positions; the more imbalances will happen and over time this can lead to aches and pains.
So what changes can you make? Here are 6 things you could do to change the way you hold yourself and ways to move more during the day
1. Sit well
When sitting make sure that you sit in a way that causes as few muscle imbalances as possible. Yes, it’s fine to cross your legs once in a while but the fact is that we do not do this for a short amount of time, we end up doing it for hours on end. So how should you sit? Here’s how:
- Have both feet flat on the floor
- Have a right angle at your knees
- Sit up on your sit bones (the bones under your bum)
- Position your ribs over your hips
- Have your shoulders wide and down
- Have your neck in line with your spine
2. Move every 30 minutes
This doesn’t have to be leg over head stuff. It could be getting up and having a shake break (think the hokey cokey), walking to speak to a colleague rather than emailing, getting up to refill a glass of water rather than having a big bottle at your desk, taking the stairs and getting out at lunch. You could even do some stretches and movements at your desk (see @pilatesatyourdesk Instagram for ideas)
3. Have devices at eye height
Set your laptop/computer at eye height. If you have a laptop you can get a stand and freestanding keyboard from Amazon. Hold your phone at eye height too. If you don’t think you can remember to do this, you could always set your screensaver as a little reminder “I like to be at eye height”, for example.
4. Look up
Use your eyes and look up at your eyebrows every so often. Your eyes are muscles too and the more you look up, the less you look down – right?
5. Press your head into your hands and your hands into your head
Interlock your fingers and place your hands behind your head, thumbs on the soft bits under your skull. Press your head into your hands and your hands into your head. You should feel the muscles at the top of your spine working? These ones don’t get a workout when your slouched forward. This will remind them that they have a job too. I like to do this intermittently throughout the day to counteract my avid social media habit.
6. Move your spine
Side-ways, rotate it, extend and flex it. These are the ways the spine can move. At work we spend a lot of time in flexion (there’s that cashew again) so why not integrate some of the other ways too.
Kerrie-Anne Bradley is a Pilates teacher and founder of Pilates At Your Desk, taking her moves into office in London and beyond. She spent 10 years as a desk-slouching economist before retraining with Fletcher Pilates. Pilates At Your Desk is a programme delivered through corporate workshops and classes which teaches people to sit well and move more at work with easy-to-follow moves. You can join Kerrie-Anne for her Morning Moves – short functional movement workouts on Instagram.