Healthy Sitting at Work
Posted 1/8/2015 by UHBlog
Sitting all day at work doesn’t sound very risky. But unless you are careful, it can unleash an avalanche of aches and pains. “We were not designed to sit,” says physical medicine and rehabilitation expert Vinod Sahgal, MD. “We were designed to stand straight and be mobile.”
Some tips from Dr. Sahgal on how to stay healthy and pain-free:
It’s easy to slump at your desk with your shoulders hunched over and your neck jutting forward—don’t. Instead, sit up in your chair with your back supported and your shoulders back. If possible, choose an ergonomic chair that provides lumbar support.
“If you’re sitting in front of a computer screen, it should be at eye level,” says Dr. Sahgal. “Your key pad should be level with your wrist in a neutral position.” Stray from neutral and you could wind up with carpal tunnel syndrome, compression of the wrist’s median nerve, which causes pain and tingling, or ulnar nerve entrapment, which triggers pain in the elbow, hand, wrist or fingers.
Poor sitting posture can also cause neck and shoulder pain, backache and headaches. “When you’re young, your body can handle it,” says Dr. Sahgal. “But when we get older, muscles and ligaments are stiffer and less elastic, which amplifies pain.”
You’ll feel better at work if you’re fit to start with. Strong core, back and shoulder muscles help you sustain proper posture and keep muscles from becoming fatigued and sore.
“The rule of thumb I give patients is the moment you start to feel uncomfortable and feel you are starting to push yourself too far, just stretch,” says Dr. Sahgal. Stretch your back, flex your abs, wiggle your toes, tighten your hamstrings and quads, and rotate your ankles. Every now and then, gently rotate your neck. “There should be no jerking movements,” he says. “It should be done slowly in a choreographed manner.”
Get Up and Move
One secret to healthy sitting is to regularly interrupt it. Stand up, stretch and walk to the restroom or the water cooler. If you are generally fit, getting up once an hour is usually enough to take a break from repetitive computer movements and get the blood flowing to the rest of your body. If you’re overweight or obese, Dr. Sahgal says, get up every half hour. It doesn’t need to be a long break. “Just move,” he says.
Vinod Sahgal, MD, is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at UH Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Sahgal or any other doctor online.