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Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes - How to Osteopathically Set Up Your Work Station

Updated: May 25, 2022

In an ideal world we wouldn't sit as much as we do. Unfortunately, between driving, working, and screens being the main source of entertainment, many people spend the majority of the day sitting. If you're going to sit, you may as well do it right. Check out some tips on how to best set up your work station to minimize unwanted strains on your body.


Tip #1 - Head


The average human head weighs about 12 pounds. As the head shifts forward the weight and therefore the strain placed on the neck increases significantly. When the head is at a 45 degree angle, such as when we look down at our phones or screens, the load placed on the neck increases to about 50 pounds. Imagine carrying a child around your neck for hours and hours a day, it wouldn't feel too great would it?

We have more than 20 muscles in the neck, the majority of which run up and down, like supporting guy-wires. If the positioning of the head and neck is non-neutral, these guy-wires have to compensate to keep the head upright and the eyes level.

To minimize the excessive force on your neck at work, raise your computer/laptop/ book or whatever you are working on to be at eye level. This can be done with a by stacking books or purchasing a raised stand for your computer monitor/laptop or by using a book stand to keep the pages upright while you read.


Our cervical spine is intended to be a lordotic curve. This means that it is relatively extended rather than being straight. Excessive downward load over time can actually begin to straighten the neck and eventually cause a relative flexion, or kyphosis, meaning the cervical spine bends in the opposite direction that it is supposed to. When our bodily tissues are placed under forces they are not designed to withstand, not only can pain occur locally in the head and neck, but knock on effects can happen elsewhere in the body due to compensation patterns as well as pathways of nerves, arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels. Since all of the information going to and from the brain has to travel through the neck, we must be mindful of the strains we place upon it.

Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking social media sites

Tip #2 - Shoulders

Take a deep breathe in... and out...

When you exhale, your shoulders naturally relax and lower into a neutral position. Try to keep them in this position while working. It's easy, especially if we are stressed, to shrug them upwards towards our ears. This shrugged position can also happen if the chair is too low and your forearms are resting on too high of a table.

Also be cognizant of the tendency to slouch forward in the chair which creates a rounding through the spine and an anterior position of the shoulder girdles. A good postural cue is to slightly puff your chest out like you are showing off a necklace or a tie and ever so slightly draw your shoulder blades together.

Bonus tip: Do some backwards arm circles to open up your thoracic cage and move your shoulders posteriorly.

Does your job require a lot of typing or mouse work?

While typing keep your thumb in line with your forearm and your wrists comfortably straight. Keyboards that are angled force your wrist into an extended position which can create tension lines through the wrist flexors and may ultimately lead to overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel. There are also products out there called "wrist rests" which help achieve this straight position.


Tip #3 - Knees & Toes

Raise or lower your chair so your feet can be placed firmly on the ground and knees bent to 90 degrees.

When a chair is too high we tend to lift our heels up, this shortens the muscles along the back of the leg such as the gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris muscles (calf muscles).


Why do we care about shortened calf muscles? Ever heard of plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis? Do you suffer from swollen ankles or feet?

Chronic shortening of the fascial and muscular tissues that run on the posterior calf and bottom of the foot can be a precursor of foot and ankle disorders as it once again affects the pathways of the nerves, arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels. The venous and lymphatic systems are easily hindered due to being low pressure systems. Low pressure systems rely heavily on movement of nearby structures, such as as the calf muscles, to create a massaging motion of which pumps the fluid up against gravitational force.


Standing at work may be a luxury to some but to others completely feasible, especially if you work from home. Standing desks have become more mainstream in the past few years and are easy to shop for online. Many even have the option of changing the height so you can seamlessly change from sitting to standing.

On a conference call? Why not try walking and talking? Pace around your office or get outside during your chat with colleagues to get your steps in. Bonus points if you use a headset or earphones so you don't have to hold your phone up to your ear the whole time.


 

If your body has been under strain from suboptimal postures for a long time, it may be difficult to adapt these changes.

Osteopathic Treatment looks at the full body and utilizes an extensive knowledge of biomechanics, anatomy, and physiology to understand compensation patterns and how one is loading their body on a day to day basis.


Concerned about your postural habits?

Book your appointment with JB Osteopathy ltd. today: jillian@jbosteopathy.com

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