Since COVID-19 we have all had to adjust to our new lives of working from home #wfh. Without warning, we’ve been thrown into spending hours working at our kitchen table, or balancing a laptop on our laps, without time to prepare for a healthier office set up. Working at a makeshift desk (which might actually just be your bed!) means poor posture for long periods of time, leading inevitably to aches and pains, at the end of the day and in the long term. As a personal trainer and pain specialist, a lot of my clients are asking me: What are some methods of poor posture correction?
In this article, I’ll go through some simple things you can do to improve your WFH environment, as well as exercises to counterbalance the hours you’re spending hunched over a computer.
- Do you have poor posture? Examining the position of your head and neck
- 5 simple ways to correct your posture when working from home
- Exercise: Chin tucks
- Exercise: Shoulder Retraction
- Exercise: Pelvic Anterior to Posterior Tilt
- Exercise: Glute Squeeze
- Exercise: Lat Depression
- Your home office: How to choose a standing desk for poor posture correction
- Your home office: how to choose an ergonomic chair for poor posture correction
What is Poor Posture and What Symptoms can be caused by Poor Posture
What is Poor Posture?
Poor posture is when your head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are all aligned in a straight line, that is when your joints are most weightless and you don’t feel tension or pain. However, due to our constant usage of phones and laptops in compromised head positions, our neck is forced to support the head, holding it in a way that places most of the tension on the neck.
What Symptoms can be caused by Poor Posture
Look at the images above where your head weighs 8-12 lbs: when you cock your head forward, it will move more weight into your neck and shoulders, causing headaches, shoulder and neck aches and even migraines. From there, since everything is connected, it will start tightening up your spine, lower back, your hip flexors, and finally your knees. This is usually the point where my patients realize they’re experiencing “strange pains” and seek help.
The best way to avoid these chronic pains due to posture, is to actually develop the muscular strength needed to keep your head in the correct position.
Here are five exercises to help your posture, so you’ll give in less to slouching or sticking your head in front. I’m sure you’re busy enough as it is, you don’t need to also be constantly considering your standing and sitting positions!
Poor Posture Corrections: 5 Best Exercises
Doing chin tucks is a great way to lengthen the back of the neck while strengthening the front of the neck, both of which will work to put your head back in the correct alignment. Because we tend nowadays to dip our heads down a lot (looking down at the phone for example!), the muscles in front of the neck over time become weakened to the point where they can no longer hold the head up properly. Therefore, strengthening the front of the neck and lengthening the back will place your head back on top of your shoulders where it needs to be.
- Place your finger on your chin
- Push your finger to guide your chin backwards into a slight double chin
Suggested reps: 10 reps every few hours
Tips: try not to tilt the head upwards and maintain your gaze straight in front of you
- Lie down on the floor
- Roll a towel like in the picture above
- Place your head on the rolled towel to create some space between your neck and the floor
- Push your chin down to squeeze the towel flat
Suggested reps: 10 reps every few hours
Tips: try not to do too much of a double chin, a slight double chin will suffice
Only strengthening the neck will not be enough to keep your head correctly positioned; your upper back is also to blame for the pains. If your head is often tilted forward, it’s a sign that the muscles of your neck and upper shoulders are weak, and get weaker with time. Do these simple exercises while sitting or standing to strengthen your upper shoulder muscles.
- Place a light band around your forearm
- Keep your arms in 90 degree angle in front of you
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together while pressing the shoulders down and away from your ears
- Try to get the band to widen as your squeeze your shoulder blades together, while not rotating your arms out
Suggested reps: 15 reps
Tips: Use a light band so you don’t stress your trapezius
This exercise is slightly different to the previous one. This strengthens the rhomboid and the erector spine (the muscles that holds the upper back spine straight) instead:
- Place the band around a pole, table leg or tree
- Make sure it’s steady and will not move
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and depress the shoulder away from your ears
- Performa row, moving the elbow back past your body
Suggested Reps: 15 reps
Tips: keep pushing the shoulders down away from your ears so you don’t end up shrugging and tightening your neck muscles.
Pelvic Anterior to Posterior Tilt
When we have an overly arched lower back, it puts a lot of tension in the muscles of the lower back. This causes lower back pain. Strengthening the core to hold the pelvis in place in the right position will help ease a lot of back pain:
- Lie down flat with knees bent and feet on the floor
- Have your hands behind your ears or beside your torso
- Squeeze your belly button down to the floor and exhale out, eliminating the space between your lower back and floor.
- Try to hold it in as long as you can to build muscle memory
Suggested Reps: hold your core in for as long as you can while breathing steadily
Tips: keep breathing, it will not be beneficial for you to hold your breath in
Equipment Needed: A yoga mat
Our glutes support our core, so strong glutes means stronger core. Once you build your glutes muscles up, you will find that you will be able to stand longer in the correct position. This prevents lower back pain or any other postural strain that you may be experiencing. In particular, this exercise will strengthen the middle part of the glutes.
- Stand on your feet shoulder width apart and squeeze your glutes together
- Imagine you’re needing to do a number two but you’re faaaaaaarrr from any toilet 😛
Suggested reps: 20 reps
The Clam exercise strengthens the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, both of which support your side steps, walking and turning. Both work in conjunction: if one of the muscles is weaker than the other, you would experience an imbalance and eventually pain.
- Lie on your side with your arm nearest to the floor under your head for support
- Put the band around your thighs near your knee
- Open your top leg out to stretch the band
- Repeat on both sides
Suggested reps: 20 reps
- Booty Bands, Resistance Bands, 3 Levels Exercise Bands for Legs and Butt
- Fabric Resistance Bands for Legs and Butt – Booty Bands 3 Resistance Bands – Exercise Bands for Legs and Butt – Squat Bands to Tone – Elastic Strength Non Slip Workout Bands for Beginner to Expert
The Lat Depression conditions and activates the lattississimus dorsi (more commonly known simply as “lats”). A lot of the times, our trapezius takes over when we are stressed, activating the shoulders and/or neck. Therefore, waking up the lats to take some of the load when in activation will lessen the tightening of the traps, alleviating neck pain.
- Stand with legs shoulder width apart facing the wall
- Put a band around your forearms near your elbow. This helps your elbow and arm stay shoulder width apart and in the 90 degree angle
- Put both your arms in a 90 degree angle, rest them on a foam roller against the wall
- Squeeze your scapulae and depress your shoulder away from the ears
- Exhale and roll the foam roller upwards without lifting your shoulders and keeping the scapulae squeezed
- When done correctly, you should feel the bottom of the armpit activating. Don’t worry if you don’t feel it right away, this does take a bit of practice.
Suggested reps: 20 reps
Tips: Squeeze in your core while doing all this so you don’t arch your back
Poor Posture Correction
Poor Posture Fix: Get a Standing desk
I always recommend my clients avoid staying in any one position for long stints. If you find yourself in the same position for a while, or doing the same repetitive movements, always compensate by exercising the opposing muscles. I think having a standing desk is a great solution, where you can switch between sitting and standing during the long hours that you work.
New solution above ☝️ standing desk
- Align your body on top of your ankles and make sure you stand up tall and straight to work
- Your arm length should be comfortably bent at the height of your chest.
- Your computer and screens should be at eye level where you’re not required to lean your head forward.
One easy way to implement this (once you find an appropriate standing desk) is to work standing, and taking a break every hour to do some sitting.
HOW TO CHOOSE A STANDING DESK
There are many options on the market for standing desks. One with hydraulics would be quite good as you can easily lower the surface to sitting or heighten it when you want to to stretch out your spine and legs.
Below are some of my choices, including one that can be an easy addition to your existing desk. In case you don’t have an ergonomic chair at home, I’ve also included some recommendations below to help you when you are sitting:
Large standing desk
Convert your existing desk to a standing one
A smaller standing desk option for restricted spaces
Poor Posture Treatment: Try using an Ergonomic Chair!
I remember not so long ago when ergonomic desks and chairs created for office workers to more easily maintain correct sitting postures was publicised in many health articles. Fast forward to now, I would say that approach is no longer the best one. We have evolved our understanding of how to adjust our lifestyles to our bodies’ needs; while the theory of sitting up straight and having our joints aligned still applies, the current consensus amongst health professionals is to use a mix of standing and sitting positions while you work. A chair, even an ergonomic one, cannot be the solution because sitting long hours in any position still results in shortened muscles in your knees, hamstrings and hip flexors, and adds eleven times more weight on your spine. That being said, an ergonomic chair can help, and below are a few examples of my favourites.
Ergonomic chairs for sitting:
- BERLMAN Ergonomic High Back mesh Office Chair with Adjustable Armrest Lumbar Support Headrest Swivel Task Desk Chair Computer Chair
- SMUGDESK Office Computer Chair Ergonomic Lumbar Support/Adjustable Headrest/Armrest and Wheels/Mesh High Back/Swivel Rolling, Black
- DRAGONN (by VIVO) Ergonomic Kneeling Chair, Adjustable Stool for Home and Office – Improve Your Posture with an Angled Seat – Thick Comfortable Cushions, Black (DN-CH-K01B)
Poor Posture Correction – Treatments and Exercises: FAQs
- Can you correct years of bad posture?
Yes, years of bad posture can be corrected, but requires practice over time. Stretching and strengthening exercises as well as myofascial release can help to teach your body’s muscles to hold itself properly again.
- How do I correct my posture?
Stretching and corrective exercises done repeatedly can correct your posture. A posture therapist or physiotherapist can help to identify what exercises are most suitable for you to achieve this.
- How can I improve my posture quickly?
If you want to improve your posture quickly, you should consult a professional on identifying your weak muscles and bad postural habits. He or she will also give you stretches and exercises to re-acquaint your body with the correct alignment. The work doesn’t stop there though – you will need to practice every day as constantly as possible until your body gains the strength and the muscle memory needed.
- How can I fix my posture naturally?
Pull your stomach in, stand up tall, and lift your head up while you walk, sit and stand. Do this every moment you get and remind yourself constantly. Dedicated exercises can help develop muscle strength to hold your head and shoulders in the correct position that places the least stress on your body.
- How can a lack of exercise cause poor posture?
Exercise is needed to build muscle and strength. Without muscles, you cannot support your bones and frame, leading to slouching and poor posture.
- What are the symptoms of poor posture?
Poor posture can cause neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and back pain. Generally bad posture means the head’s weight causes more stress for the neck, pain, and shoulders. Over time, this leads to muscle pain and tension. Pain prevention is why poor posture correction at an early phase is so important.
- What are the main causes of poor posture?
Poor posture is caused by weak muscles that are needed to hold the body and head upright, as well as lifestyle habits that cause us to stay in non-aligned positions for a long time, for example slouching over the computer or phone or not sitting straight.
Poor Posture Correction Treatments and Exercises: Final Words
The importance of having good posture can’t be overstated, and it certainly takes some work to achieve. I have many clients who find this information boring and refuse to put the work in to develop the strength needed for postural alignment. Those are the people who suffer the most. However I also have clients who learn this and stay constantly aware of how they are holding their body up — this usually results in a pain free life. Having good posture is something that has to be continuously strived for, through frequent exercises like the ones I’ve outlined in this article. Poor posture correction IS possible, it just takes work. Unfortunately, our current lifestyles encourage unfavorable alignment almost every moment of our day, so it requires vigilance and some dedication to keep a well balanced posture.
Best of luck!