Unless you attended finishing school and still regularly practice walking down hallways with books on your head, chances are your posture is, well, a little less than ideal. Poor posture is an especially growing problem amongst office workers who spend the majority of their time slouching in chairs or hunching over laptop screens. The result: computer hunch.
What Is Computer Hunch
While it may seem merely a matter of aesthetics, computer hunch (technical term: Postural Kyphosis) comes with serious consequences for the musculoskeletal system. To understand why, it’s important to note that each set of human muscles is complemented by another set that operates in the opposite manner. When you slouch in your chair, your chest muscles tighten, pulling your shoulders inward and your spine forward, while the muscles in your upper back lengthen. When you maintain this position over an extended period of time, the chest muscles grow tense and sometimes knotted, while the back muscles weaken. This has radiating effects throughout your body, causing pain in your neck, lower back, arms and legs. The more you do it, the more you are training your muscles to work in this less than ideal way, the worse your posture will become.
How You Know You Have Computer Hunch
This one is pretty easy to spot, both in yourself and in everyone around you. You’ll know you have computer hunch when you feel almost hunchbacked. Your shoulders will roll inwards and you’ll find it difficult to sit or stand up straight. You may also feel pain in your neck, lower back and limbs.
How to Treat and Prevent Computer Hunch
Fixing and preventing computer hunch is very doable, just as long as you’re committed to a few mentality and behavioral changes.
1. Exercise Regularly
Yoga, pilates and even cardio exercise are great solutions for fixing computer hunch. (Cardio less so, but anything that gets your body moving in a different way is bound to help somewhat). Combining strength training and stretching, however, is by far the most effective route forward. Try doing the thoracic bridge, as well as these chest stretches: chest compressions, prone y extensions, and close grip rows. Doing these at least 3 days a week to challenge your muscles into moving in an opposite manner to the way they do in your day-to-day.
2. Take Stretch Breaks.
Every 45 minutes or so, take some time to get up, stretch and move around. Just like the regular exercises mentioned above (some of which you can and should do right at your desk), stretch breaks will challenge your muscles and break them out of old habits.
3. Create an Ergonomic Workspace.
For the most part, computer hunch doesn’t develop completely out of the blue. Instead, office equipment and devices are often the culprits, as they’re established more for convenience than with the human body in mind. To fix this, set up your own ergonomic workstation with an ergonomic desk and chair. The chair should provide ample support for the lumbar region of your back as you sit up straight, and it should be adjustable so that you can keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees at a 45-degree angle. Ideally, the table should also be adjustable so that you’re able to float your hands naturally over an ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic setup will guide your body into working in its most natural manner and will provide the support you need to sit up straight and still work comfortably.
4. Be Conscious of Your Posture.
On that note, have we mentioned that you should sit up straight? If you’ve been hunching for years, this may be easier said than done. Start by just trying to sit up straight for 5 minutes. Then, work your way up from there, repeatedly checking in to see whether or not you’ve let the position slip. You’ll get there eventually!
The pain associated with computer hunch can decrease your productivity at work and simply make your life miserable. Fortunately, with good posture, an ergonomic setup and a dedicated exercise routine, you can fix this problem in no time. Good luck!