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You Asked: Posture Problems at Desk

You are asking and I'm answering . . .

I don't know what to do about my back! I'm 26 and have been working at a desk job for the past 3 years. I sit at the thing almost all day long! Recently, my middle and upper back have been killing me!!! My muscles are so tense it feels like my back is just a huge knot! Massages only provide temporary relief. Can you suggest any exercises to improve posture? Should I go to a chiropractor?

I know from experience that sitting all day can wreck anyone's posture and the consequences can be painful. To see my suggestions to get out of this uncomfortable pattern,


In our sedentary society, it is important to remember that we did not evolve to sit all day long, especially in chairs. Our bodies are designed to walk, by some estimates our ancestors walked at least 12 miles a day. So my first bit of advice is to stand up and walk as much as you can throughout the day and over your lunch hour (another reason to not eat at your desk).

The ligaments that support the back of the spine get over stretched when we slump, the muscles that line the spine (the extensor muscles) respond by tensing up. The best thing to alleviate this problem is to move your upper spine and shoulders around during the day. I recommend shoulder circles both forward and backward and squeezing your shoulder blades together multiple times an hour. Also arching over the back of your chair will reverse the slumping curve (here is a photo of the stretch) and it just feels great.

Outside of work, you need to strengthen your upper back with exercises like rowing and your entire back with the superman. Your chest is probably tight as well, and I suggest trying back bends on the ball and stretching your pecs. Of course, working your core muscles to support your torso will help as well (click here for core exercises).

Last but not least, pay attention to the ergonomic set up at your desk. The top of your computer monitor should be at eye level or just below and your wrists should be even or slightly lower than your elbows for typing.

A chiropractor may offer temporary relief too, but taking yoga regularly could solve the problem indefinitely. Good luck and like my mother always reminded me – sit up straight. And in your case even try leaning back a bit.


Join The Conversation
kia kia 9 years
Work your core for strength and hit some yoga and concentrate on your downward dog for flexibility.
Newsjunkie80 Newsjunkie80 9 years
An excercise ball chair is a good way to correct posture too. I'm thinking of getting one. Supposedly, it's great for your core.
paramita paramita 9 years
I can't stand doing Yoga, so I do Pilates instead. It works great for my posture :). Also, I feel that when my back is stronger, I sit up straighter than I did before. FYI, I've been majoring in IT/Design field since 10 years ago. OUCH!
rach8223 rach8223 9 years
I am currently a student in Chiropractic school and this is a popular topic... especially for ourselves! Some days we will sit for 9 straight hours of lectures. There are several things you can do to help prevent or alleviate your pain from extended sitting. First of all, if your back muscles are weak to begin with you don't stand a chance at maintaining good posture. As this article said rowing exercises are an excellent way to increase your strength. But stretching is very important too. Most people have VERY tight pectoral muscles which draw the shoulders forward. Here is a link for an easy and different way to stretch these muscles out: Don't forget microbreaks--just get up and make a lap around the office once every 1/2hr to hr. It will make a difference!!! There is also a position called "Bruegger's" where you tuck your chin, rest your palms face up on your lap, and pull your shoulders back. Hold this for 20-30 seconds and repeat as many times a day as your remember! Here is a link to a chiropractic website with some tips for good work ergonomics: Chiro's are TRAINED for this. Find yourself a good one (that does more than just adjust) and they can really help. Some will even come to your workplace, look at your set-up and suggest changes. Hope this helps:-)
hottpink hottpink 9 years
Thanks for all the wonderful advice and comments! I think I am going to start doing yoga daily. I'm still curious about inversion tables.....does anyone have any experience with them?
emalove emalove 9 years
Thank God I don't have a desk job...
mlplant mlplant 9 years
I love this post. I have horrible posture. I have actually found myself beant over my desk so much that my head is almost touching the desk. Last week I got fed up and stuck two phone books under my monitor so now I have to look up at it and finally ordered the balance ball chair that I've been looking at for months, but was too cheap to buy. I put it together this morning and so far so good. I find that I can still slump my shoulders, but the ball forces me to adjust the way I'm sitting a lot which reminds me to sit up straight and suck in my gut and move around a little more.
serenavallentine serenavallentine 9 years
there is a fantastic chiropractor that my husband goes to...he took x-rays of my husbands neck/shoulder area and showed us how unaligned it was. he told us of some case studies where he started working with a patient and after a year or so their neck/shoulders were realigned and the visits to him were cut back dramatically after that to once a month (before that i was three times a week i believe). now, i thought this guy was a bit of a scammer at first--three times a week is a lot of money. but then my husband told me about how many people he helps and sometimes doesn't even charge them money, or only charges them what they can afford. so if you can get a chiropractor who wants to put in the time and effort (and you do too, because its hard) and doesn't just want to 'crack' you once every few months then it might be a good idea. however, maybe yoga is the husband definitely is not the yoga type, and i'm sure it would be cheaper :)
hottpink hottpink 9 years
I thought about using one of those kneeling chairs...I've heard that they work well. Has anyone tried one of them?
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
What about using a stability ball instead of a chair? Or maybe one of these:
hottpink hottpink 9 years
Thanks so much Fit for the tips, I don't think my back and shoulders can take it much longer! Any suggestions when your office chair is to high in the back to arch your back over it? Has anyone every tried an inversion table?
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
It's so hard to sit right at most desks because they are not ergonomic...which sucks! None of mine have ever been...
dukegirl dukegirl 9 years
I sit at my desk and am on computer for hours each day. Ugh! I find two books very helpful: Yoga for Computer Users by Sandy Blaine; Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz, M.D.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
I try to sit up straight, kinda sucking in my belly a little, but in a way so I straighten up my back and make myself taller. Doing this for ten minutes every half hour or so really makes me realize how much I slouch. Plus,it makes you look more alert and active. I also get up and take a short walk at least once every two hours. I usually take the stairs down to the lobby (from the 6th floor) then go back up the other side of stairs. This is also really nice think time since very few people use the stairs! Make sure your chair, desk and monitor are all at an appropriate height. You should be looking at your monitor straight on, not looking down or up at it.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Great advice! I think more people should actually try using their chairs backs for support, I noticed so many people at my last job slouching.
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