One of the leading causes of lower back pain and poor circulation is poor posture. Good posture opens the body up and allows for improved circulation, breathing and elevated mood.
Poor one, on the other hand, makes it difficult to breathe, hinders circulation greatly and causes undue stress on your spine, joints and muscles.
If you spend your work day sitting at a desk and in front of a computer, use the following tips to improve your posture and your workflow.
1. Keep Your Ears Aligned with Your Shoulders
Leaning too far forward or too far backward can cause poor posture. Many people have a tendency to sit hunched over at their desks, which puts tremendous strain on the back, chest and lungs. Ensuring that your ears are aligned with your shoulders will prevent you from slouching or reclining too far backward in your office chair.
2. Uncross Your Legs
Women, in particular, have a habit of crossing their legs when they sit. While this sitting position may be more “ladylike,” it cuts off the circulation in your legs. To sit appropriately in your chair, both of your feet need to be placed flat on the ground.
Aside from building up pressure in your legs, sitting with your legs crossed can also contribute to lower back pain. What you may not realize is that this same position also elevates your blood pressure.
There are four ideal leg positions when sitting at a desk:
- Upright sitting posture with your thighs horizontal and your lower legs vertical.
- Standing posture.
- Reclined sitting with your thighs reclined at a 100 to 120 degree angle.
- Declined sitting with the angle between your abdomen and your thighs greater than 90 degrees.
Uncrossing your legs and choosing one of the above mentioned sitting positions will minimize leg cramping and help strengthen the hips and lower back.
3. Pull Your Shoulders Away From Your Ears
One of the biggest indications of poor posture is slouching forward. In this position, the shoulders are positioned forward and towards the ears. This creates an unnatural curvature between the neck and the upper spine.
Aside from slouching, another common poor posture habit is crunching your shoulders up and towards your ears. While your sitting position has a direct effect on the positioning of your shoulders, the height of your chair does as well.
A chair that is too low can cause the shoulders to become elevated, while a chair that is too high can cause the shoulders to slouch forward.
Read More: 5 Best Posture Braces for Men and Women
Making a conscious effort to pull your shoulders down and away from your ears can help keep your upper back in a neutral, vertical position. It will also open up the chest, making it easier to breathe. Avoid purposefully sticking your chest out as this can actually contribute to back pain. A comfortable, relaxed position is best. When the shoulders are relaxed, pain and tension are minimized.
4. Use a Lumbar Support Pillow
A lumbar pillow can provide your lower back with the support it so desperately needs. The positioning of the pillow forces you to sit in the correct position every time you sit down in your chair.
Many experts claim that lumbar support pillows are the best way to ensure that your spine receives the complete support it needs. Even those with distorted spines can find relief by simply investing in one of these pillows.
You can purchase a free-form pillow, or you can purchase one that attaches to the back of your chair. The pillow is firm enough to support your spine, but soft enough to conform to your body’s unique shape.
In addition to reducing the strain on your back, the pillow also helps prevent muscle fatigue, which eventually leads to back pain.
5. Get Up and Move
It’s important to be productive at work, but it’s also important to give yourself a break once in a while. Most experts recommend getting up and moving around periodically to stretch your muscles, give your spine a rest and to restore your body’s natural circulation.
In fact, sitting for long periods of time hinders blood flow, weakens the abdominal muscles, thins the bones and decreases your overall life expectancy. If you work a desk job, it’s hard to avoid sitting all day, but taking small breaks can really mean the difference between extending and shortening your life. If possible, invest in a standing desk.
To reduce eye and neck strain, follow the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 or more feet away from your screen.
6. Ensure that Your Forearms Are Supported
If you spent a great deal of time typing in front of a computer screen, you need to ensure that your forearms have ample support. Without support, the shoulders become tired and begin slouching forward.
Ideally, the elbows should be bent at a 90 degree angle with the forearms supported by either a board, the chair’s arm rests or the desk itself. If the forearms and wrists are forced into an upright position, you will find yourself at much greater risk for injury and pain.
Maintaining good posture will do more than minimize or eliminate back pain. It will also help improve your overall health. Slouching and poor posture leads to the constriction of the muscles and organs, which reduces blood flow and circulation. Practicing good posture will make it easier to breathe and greatly improve blood circulation in the body.