When working at a desk or a computer, we often tend to lean forward, hunching over the desk, rounding our shoulders. Or we crane our heads forward to better view the monitor. Over time, these activities tend to round our shoulders, stretching the back muscles and tightening the chest muscles. This poor posture not only makes work more difficult to accomplish, placing stress on the upper back, shoulder and neck and leading to soreness, but it also can impact the effectiveness of our internal organs.
One way to check your posture is to have a friend stand at your side and observe the alignment of your ears in relationship to your shoulders. If your ears and shoulders are not in line, chances are your shoulders are rounded.
Another way to check your posture is to let your hands rest at your side. Normal posture would be for the thumbs to face forward, your palms facing towards your thighs. If the palms are facing towards the back, your chest muscles may be tight causing your shoulders to hunch forward.
Try this exercise to help your body ease into a more neutral posture.
- A good exercise is to roll your shoulders - move your shoulders forward, then up, then back, then down. Do this in a smooth, rolling motion several times. Emphasize the back and down motions.
For More Helpful Exercises
- Check out this article at the Ergonomics Site at BellaOnline for additional stretches that will help you improve your posture and reduce your chances for developing work-related pain and strain.
- Stretching for the Computer Athlete
- Sometimes a rounded shoulder problem can be made worse if you sleep on your side, curled up in a fetal position. You are rounding your back all night long. Instead, try learning to sleep flat on your back at least sometimes. It can be hard to learn a new sleep position - it feels very unnatural at first. However, give it a serious effort for at least two weeks.
- Also, use a pillow that supports the neck but that does not push the shoulders or head forward such as the memory foam cervical pillow available at Amazon.com.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.