If you chose to read this article we’d bet the farm that at best you are an office worker who has a tight neck and shoulders, maybe even pain in those areas. Perhaps you’ve even suffered acute lower-back pain in the past.
That last one is the most common complaint heard by Jordane Zammit Tabona, lead physio at and co-founder of London gym 360Athletic. However, that may not actually be the most common problem – some may put up with some discomfort, accepting it as part and parcel of working at a desk all day. “When you’re office-based, having tight shoulders and neck is seen as normal, but it shouldn’t be,” says Zammit Tabona. “It’s very much down to desk posture and how much you move throughout the day.”
360Athletic is unique in offering physio services to inform personalised training plans that can combat the problems caused by a poor desk set-up, but Zammit Tabona goes further, helping to assess and improve clients’ day-to-day posture.
“I have so many patients who come in with neck pain, take on the exercises we prescribe on board and respond well to treatment,” says Zammit Tabona. “But if they don’t do anything about their desk set-up, as soon as they stop doing the exercises the pain starts to come back.”
Zammit Tabona will often ask clients to bring in a side-on picture of them sitting at their desks to help assess their posture. She has shared a list the sort of things she looks out for so you can make some improvements to your set-up. However, she doesn’t recommend making radical, wholesale changes right off the bat. Try amending one thing in this list, see how your body responds, and continue making piecemeal changes if necessary.
- “Having both feet on the floor is really important,” says Zamit Tabona.
- “Right angles at both the hips and knees show they’re not too high and not too low.”
- “A straight back that’s supported by the chair. If the chair’s reclining your back muscles will have to work to counteract that.”
- “Keep a right angle at the elbows. It’s really important that the chair slides under the desk so you can get close rather than reaching forwards with a straight arm for the mouse. That’s a really common one where people end up with a tight shoulder on that side, which causes spasms in the neck and all sorts.”
- “Having your screen at eye level. If it’s too low you’re looking down most of the day.”
- “If you have two or even three computer screens and use the one on the right more than others you’ll rotate to the right a lot, so shift it all over slightly to the left. You want to minimise unilateral rotation.”