If you have no other choice but to sit at a desk all day, you know how hard it can be to keep your posture in good form.
It's a good idea to take mini-stretch breaks when you can, and even better if you can do something even more active like go for a walk.
In this article, you'll get 3 ways to keep your posture in check while you're at work, including things you can check for yourself, products to improve your posture, and stretches that will keep your spine in good alignment.
3 Ways to Improve Your Posture at Work
1. Posture Tips
Let's start with some basic posture tips. These are simple ways you can keep tabs on your posture throughout the day.
Avoid Sitting at the Back of Your Chair
Keep a few inches of space between your back and the back of your chair. This will cause you to sit up straighter rather than slumping against the back of the seat.
That doesn't mean you should fall forward and lean your elbows on your desk either. You're aiming for a straight neutral spine.
Align Your Ears Over Your Shoulders
The typical desk jockey position is to crane your neck forward, which puts a lot of strain on the neck and shoulder muscles. Your test for this one is to imagine what your profile would look like -- if the midline of your ears is in front of the midline of your shoulder, your head is too far forward.
While you're at it, keep your shoulders in line with your hips. When ears, shoulders and hips are aligned -- you're sitting pretty!
Keep Your Head Up!
If you can't change the position of your monitor or your desk, put something at eye-level that you'll often want to look at for a few moments throughout the day.
It could be a picture, a quote you love, or a personal motto.
Whatever it is -- when it's at eye level (and your computer monitor is not), you can bring your neck muscles back to their happy neutral position for a few moments throughout the day.
2. Tools and Products for Better Posture
There are some really great products that can help keep your body safe while working. There are also some products that may be more trouble or money than they're worth.
Standing Desks or Monitor Adjustments
A standing desk, especially one with a tall bistro-style chair, can be a great way to transition from sitting to standing at a computer throughout the day.
By switching from sitting to standing throughout the day, you reduce the strain on any one muscle group. Low back pain in particular is often attributed to sitting for too long during the day.
Changing the height of your monitor can have a drastic effect on your posture. Laptop users have it the worst: when the screen is at eye level, the keyboard's in the wrong place, and vice versa. Try using a riser or platform to keep you laptop screen in the right spot while you use an external keyboard.
Desk Chair Accessories
There are a variety of products that allow people to change the level of support an office chair provides.
These include lumbar support pillows and angled seat cushions that change the posture of your pelvis on the chair. There are also wearable types of posture support that help to keep your shoulders in correct alignment and inhibit wearers from slouching.
3. Stretches and Massage to Improve Posture
Seated Spinal Twist
This can help you relieve the back tension that builds up throughout the day.
- Plant your feet on the floor and elongate your spine with the crown of your head in line with your tailbone.
- Next, cross your right leg over your left and when you exhale, twist from the lower belly towards the top leg, allowing the upper body to follow. You can place your left hand on your right knee to help pull you into the stretch
- Hold the pose on each side for 15-30 seconds.
Single Leg Extension
This is a simple exercise that trains your core muscles to stabilize your pelvis. Because it’s often our pelvis that suffers the most during work hours, this is pretty important.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands behind your head.
- Press your low back into the floor, and curl your head up off the floor.
- Next, Exhale strongly and pull your navel in and up toward your spine.
- Slowly pull one knee into your chest, keeping your low back pressed to the floor, while extending your other leg straight at about a 45-degree angle off the floor.
- Keep your abdominals pulled in and your low back on the floor. If your low back arches off the floor, extend your leg higher toward the ceiling.
- Switch legs. Start with five to 10 extensions on each side.
Chair Massage at Work
Getting regular massage also keeps your muscles and soft tissues happy and can help you keep your posture healthy.
By working out tight muscles and trouble areas as they occur you can avoid creating a full-blown injury. Massage at work, even a 15-minute session, can keep the muscles of your spine, neck, and shoulders happy and healthy.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in December 2013. It has been updated to reflect completeness and accuracy.