Here at Wee Sally Therapeutic Massage we have noticed that sitting for long expanses of time at the computer can wreak havoc with your posture, creating pain, muscle strains and other injury. Unfortunately, there's little getting out of the fact that many of us are required to sit at computers for a large part of our work day. You see, our bodies haven't evolved to deal with long periods of sitting down: our neolithic ancestors spent most of their time standing and walking. Sitting down all day with our hands in front of our bodies is a fairly unnatural posture, so we need to be extra mindful of ergonomics when we do so.
The rise of laptops (there are now more sold than desktops) has added to this: the decreased distance between the screen and keyboard, coupled with the propensity to actually use them on our laps (often while crossing our legs) can constrict blood flow and unbalance the posture. While there is no perfect way to use a laptop by itself, if you must do so, I urge you to buy a laptop stand like one of these. This will raise the angle of your computer so the monitor is at a more comfortable height for viewing. This takes your wrists out of a neutral position however, so I would not recommend this for extended typing practice. You will also need a separate mouse. If you're doing a lot of typing/at the computer for extended times, I'd recommend you buy a separate keyboard, and possibly a separate monitor (or just use a stand) to 'dock' your laptop whenever you are at your workspace.
Here's a few more tips for improving your posture at a desktop (or docked laptop) station:
1. Recognise the symptoms of poor posture: the pain may be caused by computers if it is worse after a long session working in front of a screen, and diminishes when away from the machine. Pain is likely to start in the neck and proceed down the upper back, into the lower back and sometimes into the extremities.
2. 'Sitting up straight' can be worse for your body than slumping: and plenty harder to maintain. Ensure that your eyes are level with the screen and your knees are slightly lower than your hip joints. Your wrists should be flush with the keyboard. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your shoulders and back relaxed. The Fitness for Life website has an interesting article (with pictures) on how you can obtain the correct computer posture.
3.Do small stretches when you are using your computer. Also, try standing up while using your computer. Find a useful list here. Stretches to do when you are away from the computer are here. We recommend three sets of each stretch, moving slowly into the stretch and holding for 15 - 30 seconds each time. Do twice a day for maximum benefit.
4. Make sure you take a short 3 - 5 minute break from the computer every hour or so. Try and incorporate physical exercise into this: take a walk around the block, to the coffee shop, or even around the office. The key thing here is to get the blood flowing so your muscles don't stiffen. A short, brisk walk will do wonders for your mental acuity too!
5. Finally, don't forget to book in a session of massage to help relax those tight muscles! Correcting poor posture often requires the help of a trained professional in order to re-align the muscle fibers, improve blood flow and assist in the healing of muscle strains. Call Wee Sally at 01 506 238 366 for an appointment today.