Stroll through the cubicles at the average office and you’ll see people slumping, hunching, and poking their heads out like turtles as they sink further toward their computer monitors or laptops.
Come back at the end of the day and you’ll see a bunch of people with headaches.
“Chronic headaches and migraines are the top symptoms that bring people in,” says Dr Pritchett. “Tension in the suboccipital muscles is the main cause of this, and that is due to the head-forward posture created by long term sitting.” The suboccipital muscles are the ones at the base of the skull, but the pain can be felt in the forehead, so it can be hard to recognize the cause.
Headaches hurt, and they can be distracting, but they aren’t usually dangerous — just painful.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is another issue caused by sedentary workdays. This is tingling and numbness in the upper extremities due to rounded forward shoulders. A third common problem is hyper kyphosis of the thoracic spine. “This is a long term condition that is hard to reverse,” says Dr. Pritchett. This can develop into the condition sometimes called “Dowager’s Hump” — a permanently rounded back.
When the head is not balanced above the neck and shoulders but is held forward, the result an be as much as 30 pounds of extra pressure on the neck and spine. Better posture is important, but many of us start our days sitting up straight and gradually end up with our noses getting ever closer to that computer screen. Sitting all day is not natural for us, and poor posture is the consequence.
If sitting is the problem, is a standing desk the answer? It can be. However, just switching from sitting all day to standing all day is no improvement. That can lead to lower back problems or circulation issues. It can make you tired, and it can interfere with concentration. And of course we can have poor posture standing as well as sitting.
So the real solution is to move more and change positions more during the day. That doesn’t mean you have to have two desks. An adjustable monitor stand can allow you to sit for tasks that require intense concentration, then stand for a while to get less intense tasks done, and then return to sitting. The changes in position and posture can help reduce the long-term health effects of too much sitting, as well as the pain that comes with poor posture.
Dr. Pritchett is a fan of the Varidesk, a special desk that converts from a sitting to a standing surface in seconds.
Adjustable monitor stands or desks may be covered by your insurance company if you receive a prescription for one. If you suffer from headaches or you’re concerned about your workday posture, visit Millennium Chiro and learn about the benefits of the adjustable monitor stand.