Good posture is essential to the correct alignment of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the body, which ensure that the musculoskeletal system works efficiently together. With more of us now working from home, we may not have the right equipment and may be sat at our kitchen table. It is more important now than ever to keep an eye on our posture whilst working.
The musculoskeletal system is the body’s method of movement and smooth, efficient motion ensures that stress is distributed properly as a person sits, stands, walks, lifts, twists, pushes or pulls, which reduces wear and tear on the body, especially on joints and muscles. Good posture also allows for maximum control and strength when carrying out tasks and also increases self-esteem, helping to fight negative mood swings, reducing stress and increasing productivity in the workplace. Good posture reduces the occurrence of back pain, joint aches and other problems that can result in time off work and reduced motivation and efficiency.
Poor posture, disturbs the natural alignment of the body, placing the bones, joints, muscles, connective tissues, and nerves in positions where they are unable to work as intended, for example, slouching. Slouching can put strain on the muscles of the spine causing back pain and fatigue, especially as the body takes 30% less oxygen compared to when sitting/standing upright. Poor posture can cause insufficient blood flow to areas causing a tingling sensation or loss of feeling. Chronic or long-term effects include nerve injuries, especially in the wrists, aggravated high blood pressure, a reduction in muscle strength and muscle swelling. Back pain is one of the most common work-related injuries and is often caused by ordinary work activities such as sitting in an office chair or heavy lifting.
Repetitive movement is another posture risk factor. Many work tasks and cycles are repetitive in nature, where they are controlled by hourly/daily production targets and work processes. High task repetition with an awkward posture can contribute to the formation of muscular skeletal disorders, aches and pains.
Ways to improve your posture in the work place:
- Moving throughout the day is vital. Standing or taking short walks at intervals and alternating sitting/standing postures increases mobility and elasticity protecting the joints. Prolonged sitting can lead to loss of shoulder motion, chronic pain, walking deficits, neck-related headaches and the inability to exercise.
- Stretching at your desk/work station, for example, stretching out your legs, shoulders, back, fingers and wrists throughout the day will allow more blood to move around the body, even when seated. This will reduce fatigue, improve muscular balance/coordination and posture.
- Stretching before work is beneficial as it warms up the body improving performance and lowering the risk of injury.
- Both when standing and seated, the shoulder muscles should be relaxed and the back straight to help keep a good posture throughout the day.
- Refrain from having a reclining chair as this increases pressure on the shoulders and neck. Sitting upright is the best position.
- Using an adjustable chair with lower back support is ideal with adjustable arm rests, allowing the arms to be close to your sides and adjustable height to keep the feet flat on the floor.
- If using a keyboard, the elbows should bend at no more than a 90 degree angle, allowing the wrists to remain neutral and almost straight. Using a wrist pad can cause bending.
- Excessive or unnecessary motions should be reduced. It is important to eliminate extreme force requirements in awkward postures.
- Staying physically fit, strong and flexible improves the likelihood of avoiding back injuries in all types of work environments.
- Maintaining body strength and being consciously aware of your posture can keep you mobile into your elderly years.
Tips for working on a laptop:
- If possible, use a separate mouse and keyboard so that the laptop can be put on a stand with the screen open at eye level, relieving stress on the neck.
- Avoid using a laptop on your lap. Instead use a stable surface/desk with support for your arms.
- Adopt a good sitting posture with lower back support and ensure other desk equipment is within reach.
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Lohrey J. (2017) Why is good posture important during work and typing? https://www.livestrong.com/article/359431-why-is-good-posture-important-during-work-typing/
McKenzie T (2014) How Sitting For Prolonged Periods Is Stalling Your Metabolic Machinery And What To Do About It. Available at:
Selby N C, Triano J J (2006) Ergononics of the Office and Workplace. Available at: https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/ergonomics-office-and-workplace-overview