As I mentioned in my last post, at MoveSafe we believe that injury prevention can be encapsulated into 3 simple ideas:
- Prepare and Maintain the Body
- Prepare the Work Area and Equipment and,
- Healthy Movement, with proper postures and movement patterns.
In part 3 of this 3 part blog post, we will review the ‘Big 3’ Fundamental Healthy Postures for office work. We believe that healthy posture movement can be distilled down into these 3 simple principles:
- Stable Base
- Shoulders Anchored
- Hinge at the Hips
Let’s look at each concept in a bit more detail.
It’s not realistic for anyone to maintain good positioning if they don’t start with a stable base of support. For seated posture, this means having your full foot (toes and heels) firmly supported on the floor or a footrest and your thighs well supported by the chair seat pan… before you ask, the following are NOT examples of a stable base:
- Tippy toe touching
- Feet on base of chair
- Legs crossed under the desk
- Perched on the front edge of the chair with feet flat on the floor
- Slouched down in your chair with thighs hanging off the front edge and feet flat on the floor.
We understand that the fidgetters of the world will move through some or all of these postures over the course of the day and a short duration in any one of them is not a big deal, but try to avoid having any one of the above be your usual working posture.
Active contraction of postural muscles gets tiring over the course of the day, so it’s important that you sit back against the backrest of your chair, anchoring the base of your shoulders blades against the seat back for optimal support. You shouldn’t have to pin your shoulders back, but if your chair back is properly adjusted and slightly reclined, gravity will help keep you comfortably in contact with the backrest. When your shoulders are anchored, and you are sitting slightly behind the vertical plane, this tends to align your head in an upright position which minimizes slouching and hunching through the upper back. The following are NOT examples of anchored shoulders:
- Sitting perched forward in the chair without any contact with the backrest (regardless of how upright your posture is, this requires constant static muscle contraction which is fatiguing over time)
- Sitting with your head and upper back hunched forward away from the backrest (think squinting forward to see the monitor)
- Sitting bolt upright with your chair back also bolt upright or even tilted slightly forwards. Again this requires constant static muscle contraction to stay upright in contact with the chair backrest. If you relax you will hunch forward.
Hinge at the Hips
It’s not realistic to think you could (or should) sit with good posture all day without moving. You will need to lean forward to answer the phone or access items at the rear of your desk. You may need to bend or reach to a low shelf or file cabinet. Movement is necessary, but HOW you move is important. To protect your back, make sure you move forward by hinging through the hips. Keep your shoulders anchored and your spine upright in a neutral, 3-curve alignment as you shift your body weight forward. Your back should move, very little, or not at all, the movement should occur through your hips joints as you hinge forward. The following is NOT hinging at the hips.
- Leading with the top of your head as you reach or bend.
- Collapsing through your mid-back as you lean forward
- Reaching forward with your arm and allowing your mid-back to twist or hunch forward following your arm.
Maintaining the ‘Big 3’ healthy movement fundamentals will be made easier if you take the time to:
- Prepare and Maintain your Body to allow tissue recovery and reduce build up of stress, and;
- Prepare your Work Area and Equipment to support you in these low risk postures.
Implementing all three of the MoveSafe® main elements will let you “Give your body what it needs…and still get your work done!”