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Are you a desk jockey?

You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting for 6+ hours a day has shown that your risk of serious health problems increase by 40% (and this is independent of how healthy or active you are outside of the office)! You can see in the picture below the toll sitting takes on our body.

Sitting plus typing plus intensely focusing on a screen a few inches below and in front of us has created a nation of slumped shoulders, leading to unstable shoulder joints, and tight pecs. We compound the issue with poor text messaging posture or just simply looking down and playing with our phones. What happens when we spend a good portion of our lives slumping forward at the shoulders? Ideally (naturally), our shoulder blades are stable, retracted, and down. This protects our shoulders and allows full mobility without bumping into connective tissues. When we slump in front of the laptop, our shoulder blades drift apart, or abduct, putting our shoulder stability in jeopardy. Try fully protracting your shoulder blades (pushing your arms as far forward as possible by spreading your shoulder blades). Now, try lifting your arms directly over head, like you were performing an overhead press. You can’t do it comfortably. Your shoulders are out of place. Do the opposite: retract and set your shoulder blades back, then lift your arms overhead. It should be a lot easier. That’s how shoulders are supposed to work, but the former example is how most shoulder slumpers “work.” Furthermore, slumping shoulders will pull the rest of your spine out of order, simply because you’ve got the combined weight of your big head and upper trunk pulling down. Forward head posture (also compounded by the sitting/texting etc) is a major issue. If you’ve had any pain in your neck at all consider reforming your posture. Your ears should naturally be in line with your shoulders (although if you already have rounded shoulders this can be deceiving). For every inch of forward head translation, 10 pounds of stress is added to the weight of your head on your neck!

First, try avoiding the problem. Don’t just sit like everyone else. Explore your options, which include:

1. Get a standing workstation or fully adjustable desk that can be customized by an ergonomic expert for your body. Or go to the link to customize yourself.

2. Take frequent breaks throughout the day. A 5 minute break/stretch every 20-30 minutes is ideal. Avoid long stretches of motionless sitting, fidget as much as possible even when you’re sitting or sit on a wobble disc for 2 or 3 hours of the day. Brugger’s exercise (picture on the right) is also a good stretch you can do while seated, but please also get up and move around!

3.  Maintain a strong relationship with your glutes. If you’re sitting for hours each day there’s bound to be some disconnect between your brain and your gluts (they actually become inhibited and are “turned-off”). Glute bridges are a popular exercise, but squats are also a very effective exercise. If you think you’re engaging your glutes but are unable to establish the glute-brain connection, try poking your butt as you engage it. By actually feeling it harden against your finger, you’ll be able to establish the neurological connection, thus making future engagements easier and more effective.

4. Not only your back, but your arms and fingers suffer as well. A vast network of tendons and connective tissue running up your entire arm supports the function of your fingers. You can feel it working and expressing as you “type.” Poor typing posture, either from improper seating arrangements or inactive and tight muscles, can make things even worse. Obviously, you’ll want to correct the underlying postural/workstation/muscular issues, but here are some suggestions to avoid carpal tunnel, tendonitis and other dreaded conditions:

a. Try nerve glides. Sweep your arm out to the side until it is slightly behind you, palm facing forward, elbow gently straight

  • Pull your wrist back until you feel a gently tension somewhere in the arm

  • Relax the wrist forward until tension is relieved

  • Repeat 10 times

  • Ease the tension on the wrist to about half

  • Holding this position, gently raise your arm until you feel tension (stay below shoulder height)

  • Lower the arm until tension is relieved

  • Repeat 10 times

  • Ease the tension on the arm to about half

  • Tilt your head (bring opposite ear towards opposite shoulder) until you feel tension

  • Straighten the neck until tension is relieved

  • Repeat 10 times

b. Get a rubber band with decent tension, or perhaps a hair scrunchy. Take the affected hand and touch all five finger tips together, forming a sort of point. Slip the band or scrunchy around all five fingers and draw them apart against the resistance of the band. It’s like a reverse squeeze. Most people are far stronger gripping than they are going the opposite direction, so it’s worthwhile. Do this casually whenever you have time – in between emails, at home while watching TV, even while driving, you can keep it up with the off hand.

c. Hand massages. The palm of your hand has a fair amount of muscle. Like with any muscle, deep massage will break up knots and improve function – and reduce pain stemming from poor function. Dig into your palm with a ball or even your knuckles, or have someone else give you a deep hand massage. Try this halfway through the day. Note how your hands feel typing, give it a good five-minute working over with the ball or knuckle, then try typing again. Does it feel more natural? If so, treat your hands to a massage a few times each week, or more often, if you can find the time (you can find the time).


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