Find yourself staring at a computer a lot these days? How we hold ourselves in space can affect how our body feels and functions. You’ve been there…staring at the computer for hours with your head jutted forward like a turtle sticking it’s head out of a shell. Before long, you are wondering why your neck hurts and you have a headache. The body isn’t designed to be in those positions for long periods of time, not to mention sitting on our behinds all day long. Modern technology (mostly computers and cell phones) make it pretty tricky to keep our bodies in good alignment. Part of the problem is that we probably shouldn’t be using these devices for 4 hours at a time, or even an hour straight. Our eyes, backs, neck and shoulders will all thank us for stepping away from the computer regularly (like every 20-30 minutes) to give everything a break.
When we go back to our work, try to keep your body happy by starting off with everything lined up.
Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
- If sitting, feet are planted on the floor (and not crossed under your chair).
- You are sitting tall on your sits bones (ischial tuberosities) and your core ever so slightly drawn in to help hold your body up.
- Your chest is proud (open) and the back of your neck elongated (think helium ballon gently lifting up).
This is a great place to start. In an ideal world, your computer monitor is straight out in front of you at the level of your eyes and our hands are resting on the keyboard with elbows at 90 degrees of bend. The only problem is that many of us are on laptops that aren’t great for ergonomics. If working on a computer most of the day, it may be best to get that separate monitor so you can keep things lined up. If that isn’t an option, all is not lost yet.
Let's get you situated with your laptop
The trick to proper body mechanics on a laptop is to keep your head aligned over your body and avoid the desire to bring your face closer to the screen. We do this when our eyes get strained, our close up vision isn’t great and also when our bodies are fatigued. These each have their own solutions….eyes are strained - take a break; close up vision isn’t great - make your text bigger or visit the eye doctor; tired muscles - improve your core and posture strength so sitting up isn’t so difficult. In addition to these tips, thinking about where you look down from can be extremely helpful. I’m talking about looking down because our laptops resting on the desk (or lap) are lower than our eyes, hence we have to look down. If the laptop is on your lap, propping it up with a pillow (with a laptop shield under the computer) can help, but isn’t quite enough. Here is the trick….when you look down at your screen (yes, phones we are talking to you too!) rotate around a pivot point at the level of your ear. This keeps your 8-12 pound head lined up over the spine and actually makes it easier for your body to hold it there. Most often when looking down at a device, people let their whole head go forward out over their body. This brings the neck out of it’s preferred anatomical position and also makes the muscles in the back of your neck, shoulders and upper back have to work like crazy to hold it there. Hello tension headaches and neck muscles that feel like rocks.
If you have a standing desk, hurray! Getting off of the tush and on your feet is great for your back and your health in general.
If you are lucky enough to be at a standing desk you still aren’t out of the woods in watching your posture. Avoid hanging your head on your hand, letting your head jut forward and standing with all of your weight on one foot.
Sit (or stand) tall, be proud and work on!!!