My husband is constantly correcting my posture. From his point of view, he easily notices how often my shoulders, neck and overall spine posture bend forward since having moved into a more stationary desk job last year. “F.H.P.” is a medical- usually chiropractic- acronym that stands for Forward Head Posture and the variety of associated symptoms. Most of us desk dwellers are probably blissfully unaware of how slouchy we are. I was too, until I tagged along with a friend’s chiropractor appointment.
Do your shoulders feel locked after a long day at your desk? Does it sometimes feel like your breathing is shallower than it should be? These are some of the most common symptoms of FHP that I’ve experienced. One way to determine if you are suffering from FHP is to stand sideways in front of a mirror. Do you have to be intentional about making your shoulders line up with your lower back, or do you have a slight slant forward from the base of your neck out forward from your body? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or share these observations, it’s possible that desk dwelling is getting you into a bit of body trouble.
Since I’m not a doctor I’m not going to try to explain all the aspects of F.H.P., but I definitely recommend asking your doctor about it or doing some research on your own. Meanwhile, I’ve researched and implemented some simple changes at my desk that have been really helpful.
First, set the stage for health with your computer monitor. Step one is to get the monitor up. An extremely common cause of neck strain is due to looking down at the monitor rather than straight on or at a slight slant. The risk manager at my company actually created risers for the desks in our office to help with this issue. You can make one too! The risers we have raise the height of the base of the monitor up four inches. Bring your computer screen as close to your face as possible. Tilt your screen up toward the ceiling to help pull your chin upwards as you read.
If you have dual-monitors like I do, make one the primary screen and place the second off to one side. Put your primary one directly in the center of your desk so that you naturally face it straight on. Having the monitors side by side forces you to constantly turn left or right to view one or the other, and that strains your neck.
Secondly, practice sitting up straight in your chair. Chair height and angle are an entirely separate topic that won’t be covered here, but are an important piece of the puzzle so be sure to check that out on your own. In your chair, make it a habit to push your shoulder blades up against the back of the chair straightening your spine in the process. If you’re like me, the more you do it the more you realize how easily you naturally slouch.
Lastly, use ergonomic equipment and take breaks often. Hopefully your employer provides headsets, document props, keyboard rests, etc. Make sure you use these. Cradling a phone is outdated, and it will do wonders of damage to your neck if done on a regular basis. Likewise, looking straight down at documents for extended periods of time strains the base of the spine. And as always, remember to stretch, stand and walk around as often as you think your employer will find acceptable. Obviously you do not want to appear to be avoiding your desk and the work the employer is paying you to do, but you do need to keep your body healthy. So be sure to stretch, stand and walk around as often as possible.
If your employer allows it, you might even want to think about getting a standing desk. That way you aren’t sitting the entire day, but you can sit when you see fit.
What are some moves you make to ensure that you are keeping your body- particularly your neck and spine- healthy at work? Let us know in the comments section below!