It was about 6 months into my first office job that I began to notice a creeping pain in my back and neck. The pain started off subtle, just a small twang here or there if I bent the wrong way, or turned my head too fast. Nothing to be too concerned with, right? Little did I know that, in the coming months, this creeping pain would not only become more pronounced, but would also become a frequent visitor in my day-to-day life.
“Is your stomach bothering you? You seem kinda hunched over.” the concerned eyes of my girlfriend fell to my midsection as I sat at the breakfast table one morning before work. Immediately, and with a reassuring “Nope, all good!” I straightened up. My horrible posture was following me home from the office and becoming a staple of my daily life. I knew I had to make a change, and fast, as I realized the pains and aches were now always there, just…blending in to the hum of “the everyday”.
Starting at the office, but also reaching to the car, and even my desk at home, I began to examine the problem-causing areas of my life, and became hyper-aware of my posture at all times of the day. Slowly, using the tactics outlined below, I began to reconfigure not only how my body and back felt, but how it appeared as well.
Constantly stay aware of your body alignment.
This step requires the least effort to practice, but was the absolute hardest to keep in mind. Throughout the day it’s inevitable that you’re going to slump, slouch, or otherwise revert back to the bad habits you’ve fallen into. Stick a post-it note on your monitor, or set your phone to alert you at regular intervals (on vibrate, unless you want to be “that guy/girl” at work), whatever you need to do to keep yourself alert throughout the day.
Always remember, ears in line with your shoulders, lower back arched, chest out, and shoulder blades back.
Keep your core in shape.
An office job is likely going to take up the majority of your day, which can and will impact your gym routine if you’re new to this work schedule. It’s dangerously easy to let your physical condition slide with the pursuit of your corporate, ladder-climbing dreams, but unless you don’t want to live to see that corner office…get in the gym. Keeping your core nice and tight will naturally benefit your posture and help make proper alignment your body’s default.
…instead of your accustomed Hunchback of Notre Dame’esque stance.
Call in for reinforcements.
You’ve let your body become habituated to this daily slump, so you may need some outside assistance to help fight these tendencies. There are a variety of lumbar cushions available that can aid you in maintaining proper posture on just about every chair you can think of (I’m partial to the PharMeDoc line of seat cushions, for obvious reasons!). Swapping out your chair for a balance ball at work will strengthen your core without you even breaking a sweat. In more extreme cases, you can even consider wearing an elastic brace to force your back/shoulders into position constantly throughout the day.
The secret to these aids is not to expect them to do all the work. They’re here to work with your body, not for it.
Don’t neglect the impact of sleep
Sleep is roughly one third of your life. Why spend that third directly fighting what you’re working all day trying to fix? Improving your posture while sleeping has a plethora of benefits including sounder sleep, less neck aches throughout the day, and reduced spinal tension. Make sure your mattress isn’t sagging or in need of replacing, and your pillow is keeping your neck aligned with your spine.
Sleeping on your back is your best bet for proper sleeping posture, however, with proper pillow support you can manage great alignment even as a side sleeper.
Sorry stomach sleepers, this is widely considered the worst sleeping position. Looks like it's time for a change!
Never forget, your posture didn’t get this bad in a day, nor shall it be corrected in one. Persistence is key when it comes to correcting the bad habits you’ve established, but once you’re there you’ll notice drastic changes in your physique and general well-being!