Sitting posture, physiotherapy, Orchard Physiotherapy Clinic

Is Your Sitting Posture a Cause of Back / Neck Problems at Work or at Home?


Orchard Clinic Physiotherapist, Kieran Cummings, shares some tips:

A recent study found that 40% of sick days were taken off due to back pain. With most of the population working in sedentary jobs there is a need for us to be aware of the problems that can cause pain to start and have an affect on our busy lives.

Below is a check list to help you protect yourself from postural related back pain which is brought on by sitting at you desk for prolonged periods of time.

Check your sitting posture

  • Sit as close as possible to your desk, with your upper arms parallel to your torso.
  • Elbows should roughly rest at 90 degree angle with your hands resting flat on the work surface. If this is not possible then your chair height might need to be lowered or raised to a greater height.
  • Also make sure that your feet are flat on the floor and there is a small gap between the seat pan of the chair and the back of your knees.
  • If your knees are flush with the seat pan then this will cause you to shuffle forward in the seat and stop you using the back rest. This will result in over use in your back muscle and will cause fatigue and pain.
  • Conversely, if you sit on a chair is too low, this will mean your hips will be lower than your knees and results in a flexed lower back, causing a reduction in blood supply to the muscles in your lower back which can cause fatigue and pain.

How should your desk look

  • Once your chair has been adjusted to the height of the table, its time to check your desk to see if it is set up for you. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, look forward with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes. You should be looking at the upper two thirds of your computer screen. If this is not the case then adjust the screen so it is level with your gaze.
  • If you need to raise your laptop, consider using a stack of books or a laptop holder, which can helped reduce the risk of neck strain.
  • When using a laptop, try and use a separate keyboard and aids in improving your head position.

Check your posture as the day progress

  • As the day progresses it is normal for us to get tired which means we begin to slump in the chair, or we edge forward. This means we are no longer using the back support.
  • Both of these postures will result in fatigue, stress and possible pain.
  • Make a conscious effort to press your bottom against the back of the chair, and avoid slumping or slouching. This will reduce the stress on the muscles, lumbar discs and other structures of the lower back.

Take a break

  • If sitting becomes uncomfortable then it is time you to take a break and stand up and walk around.
  • It is good practice to have a break from working every 20 mins to an hour. This can either be to walk and get a drink or to reach both arms up to ceiling.
  • These breaks have the advantage of improving normal blood flow, which can help to reduce fatigue, increasing oxygenation to our tissues.
  • At lunch time it is important to take a walk for 10 – 15 mins.

What do I do if I still get symptoms

If you have tried the above and you still get pain, then it is time for you to see someone with the experience and knowledge to help manage your symptoms.  Here at Orchard Physiotherapy we have the team that can help.  Whether that is to treat you for the pain you are feeling or to assess you for a work station assessment.

Neck Strain: Other Causes and Remedies

Adjust your armrest

  • Armrests play an important role in reducing neck and shoulder strain and diminishing the likelihood of slouching forward in your chair.
    Adjust the armrest to the point where your arms are slightly lifted at the shoulders. Doing so will allow the armrest to support just the elbow and take weight off the shoulders.

Perhaps after making all these changes, you will ultimately decide that you do need a new office chair.

If you find yourself in the market for a new chair, you’ll want to consider many factors, including the seat’s height, width, depth, materials, armrests, back rest, lumbar support, and swivel.

If you have found yourself suffering from neck or back pain, contact the team to make an appointment to see one of our physiotherapists, and discuss with them a work station assessment during your visit.