Sitting for a long time regularly is linked to many health issues including obesity, diabetes, heart diseases and other issues. However, we often forget that sitting for a long time is a common cause of posture issues. A large proportion of workers in the UK work in offices, where are large period of the day is spent sitting. This means following the correct sitting posture is even more important for office workers. However, many of us get this wrong.
This section will cover the health risks of bad sitting posture in the office, the correct ergonomic sitting position and how we can move around more in the office.
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Bad sitting posture in the office can most commonly cause back and neck pain, which are often the most popular complaints from office workers. This can be due to disc degeneration, or because of the excess pressure being suffered by the spine. Back and neck pain can also be due to a slumped position causing nerve constriction, as the spine and other bones change their position due to long-term effects of bad posture. When this happens, the skeletal system begins to come into contact with surrounding nerves, “pinching” them. If nerves become pinched, this causes pain in the body, most commonly in the back and neck.
Slouching is directly related to nerve constriction
Health risks of practising bad posture in the office don’t just include neck and back pain. There is a large variety of problems that can be caused by bad posture, including joint pain, muscle stiffness and permanent slumping. Bad sitting posture in the office can also cause hip pain, knee pain and ankle pain. Studies have shown that bad posture in the office is also linked to digestion issues. Sitting in a slouched position all day can compress your abdominal organs, which includes your digestive tract. This can have an impact on your metabolism and affects your ability to process food correctly.
Slouching in the office can even negatively affect your lung capacity and ability to breathe properly. This occurs as slouching causes the muscles and tendons in the front of your body to become shortened. The impact of this can make it difficult to take full, deep breaths.
Repetitive strain injury refers to the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons due to repetitive movements and overuse injury. The term not only refers to wrist and hand injuries caused by typing, but can be a range of painful or uncomfortable conditions of the muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissues. Most cases of repetitive strain injuries have their bases in the nerves in the upper body, from the nerves in the neck and shoulders down into the wrists and hands. Repetitive strain injury can be caused by consistently sitting in an uncomfortable, un-natural position, as well as common mistakes such as straining.
When sitting at your desk, you should try and avoid slouching and leaning forward in your chair. These common errors can often be a main cause of back and neck pain.
You should also ensure your chair height isn’t too high or low. When you are sitting with the knees significantly above the hips, this indicates that your chair is too low. This increases the risk of slouching, as sitting with your knees above your hips can promote the rounding of the spine, increasing pressure on the discs. You should also ensure your chair height isn’t too high, as this can put pressure on your thighs. Sitting on a chair that is too high can also reduce the back flow of blood, sometimes causing swelling in the legs, varicose veins and swelling in the ankles. A seat height ranging from 16 to 21 inches off the ground is suitable for most workers.
Paying attention to how often you are standing and moving around at work is also important, as not doing so can result in repetitive strain injury and muscle stiffness.
The incorrect placement of your keyboard and mouse is also a common cause of repetitive strain injury, as this causes straining. You can read more about this in our guide to typing ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the science of looking at how workers can be more efficient and comfortable when performing job functions. It involves establishing an ideal fit between a worker, their working environment and the tasks they carry out. When applied to an office setting, this means looking for the best way to sit comfortably and safe using ergonomic equipment such as computers and chairs. Office ergonomics looks at every aspect from monitor placement to typing ergonomics. It also involves ensuring you are sitting in a position that poses no health risks.
Ergonomic sitting posture means studying an individual’s sitting position in the office. This focuses purely on following proper posture ergonomics to ensure you sit in a way that optimizes comfort and efficiency in the work environment. Following ergonomic sitting posture tips reduces your risk of pain, discomfort and work-related injuries. This concept focuses on an individual’s back and neck position at work, and how their legs are positioned.
The correct ergonomic sitting position includes having both feet on the floor, as this keeps the pelvis balanced and makes it easier for you to arch your lower back. Your elbows should be by the side of your body so your arm forms an L-shape at the elbow joint. You should also sit straight in your chair, resisting the urge to slouch. Keeping a straight back and sitting up straight means your bones, ligaments, muscles and joints can properly align themselves. This means extra strain and stress is eliminated, preventing back ache and other muscle pains. Sitting up straight also means you keep your head straight rather than facing down, which prevents the risk of developing neck ache. Ensure you are sat with your hip far back in your chair. Your knees should ideally be in line with your hips.
For information on the correct wrist placement and the correct way to type, you can read our guide to typing ergonomics.
Your sitting posture in an office chair can often be improved through being more aware of how you are sat in the office. To ensure your posture doesn’t worsen throughout the day, you can remind yourself frequently to ensure your back is straight and both your feet are planted flat on the floor. You should adjust your chair so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are in line with your hips.
If you are struggling to follow the correct the posture in an office chair, you can invest in the correct ergonomic products. Ergonomic monitor arms provide an improvement if slouching is a problem. Monitor arms prevent you from leaning forward and hunching, reducing the risk of eye, neck and back strain. You can read more about how monitor arms can benefit office workers here. If you struggle to keep both feet on the floor, invest in a foot rest or ask your company if they can provide one of these. Sit-stand desks can also be useful if you experience stiff or cramped legs at the end of the day, as they help encourage stretching and movement. You can purchase our Active Electric Sit Stand Workstation here.
An ergonomic kneeling chair positions you with an open hip angle with your thighs supported by one pad, and your knees and shins supported by another. Ergonomic kneeling chairs are designed to engage your core as you sit. Although they have many health benefits, they are generally designed for short-term tasks that require reaching forward, such as short-term writing.
The NHS recommends the following tips to help your sitting posture in the office:
Exercise and movement can prevent common workplace problems such as muscle stiffness and aches. You can keep moving through stretching exercises, taking breaks, moving neck regularly and reducing muscle stiffness. Take a short break and walk once every half hour if possible. If you have a standing desk, it is still important to move around as much as possible during working. Try and step backward and forward for a while throughout the day to stretch your legs. If you enjoy running and your workplace is within reasonable distance to your home, you could even challenge yourself to run to work frequently.
A workplace posture assessment is a measure of the risk factors in your work environment that are capable of causing physical issues such as musculoskeletal disorders or injuries. The assessment involves identifying any risk factors in terms of how individuals are sitting, and making measurable improvements in the environment. This can involve purchasing new equipment or adjusting existing equipment to make it safer and more sufficient.
You can view our full range of ergonomic solutions here to help improve your sitting posture in the office.