While it can be easy to grab your laptop and work from the couch (or worse, from bed), spending hours hunched over a screen while telecommuting or sitting improperly at a desk can have serious consequences if you’re not careful.
Crossing your legs under your desk or sitting with your legs up on your chair may feel like a comfortable option—but if you’ve ever experienced back pain after a long day on the job you probably already know that these improper seating positions are not worth it.
Here’s what posture experts had to say about the best desk seating positions for long days at the office—whether you’re working from home or still commuting into your workplace, this is what you should be doing to ensure your lower back, neck, and spine are all properly supported and aligned so that you don’t feel it later on.
Ensure your feet stay flat on the ground.
“My approach and general recommendation is to have both feet flat on the ground, little to accentuation of curves in the spine, ears/shoulders/hips stacked and in line with each other, knees at hip level or slightly lower than hips, elbows at approximately 90 degrees, and head forward.” explains Dr. Daina Patel BSc (Hons), DC Chronic Pain Chiropractor.
Whatever you do—move.
Although posture is great to maintain, Dr. Patel says the best way is to do exercises and strengthen the muscles so sitting doesn’t cause pain but also to take breaks as often as possible. “Every 15-20 minutes is ideal but at minimum once per hour is good. This helps to get blood circulation and prevents muscles from getting tight and stiff. Pair this with a quick stretch or for water breaks to stay hydrated!”
Keep your eyes level and back straight.
According to Dr. Patel, monitors should have the top level of text at eye level so usually this means raising the monitor. “As far as laptops go, I recommend a stand to raise it up or stacked on books and an external keyboard and mouse.”
Dr. Patel actually supports using chairs with little to no back support as it actually keeps our muscles engaged and keeps us upright. If there is back support, we tend to slouch and lean against it, causing our muscles to stop working and stay in a resting position. “This might feel good in the moment but doing this for long periods of time can lead to aches and pains. I love stools and ball chairs!”
Relax your shoulders.
“Hold your shoulders softly in a relaxed position beside your torso,” explains Tai Chi instructor Austin Stahl. “Don’t allow them to roll forward, and don’t reach out too far to type. This will encourage a curved spine, which will cause the muscles in your neck and back to tense for support.”
Stahl also suggests making an effort to pay attention to levels of stress. “When we stress, it’s common for our shoulders to rise upward which will also tense the trapezius muscles, a common cause of headaches.”
Be mindful of your weight distribution.
Focus on the alignment of your pelvis and the distribution of your weight upon your seat.
According to Stahl, if your pelvis rolls too far backward, it puts your weight on the hamstrings and shortens the erector spinae muscles, throwing your spine slightly out of alignment by overly curving the low back. If your pelvis rolls too far forward, it may cause your lower spine to bulge backward and in the process throw it out of alignment.
“You want to find a middle point between these two extremes…it helps to start with your tailbone pointed directly downward and adjust to find your own comfort zone from there,” he suggests.
“From top to bottom, your spine should be long and aligned. The goal is for your body’s weight to be supported by your bones, not by the strain of your muscles.”