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Protect Your Back While You Sit At The Computer

Updated on April 1, 2018
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Sitting at the computer - right?  Wrong!
Sitting at the computer - right? Wrong! | Source

It Used to be "Stand up Straight!" Today, it's "Sit Up Straight".

I hated hearing "stand up straight" while I was growing up. For one thing, to "stand up straight and look at me", usually meant I was about to be scolded or punished. Those words were a message within a message. It usually meant that I was in trouble.

I rarely heard the command to "sit up straight" unless I sang soprano in the school choir. Computers were not around in the 60's and 70's so sitting in one position day and night was unheard of.

In the military, men and women are taught to stand up straight, chest out, etc. as a sign of respect. So, for some of us, good posture takes on a bit of a negative feeling. We prefer to relax. "Don't slouch!" is yet another order that especially teens rebel from. Few of us were taught good posture in a positive and understanding approach. And the association between good posture and back trouble hardly existed.

With the invention of the personal computer came back trouble. Sitting at the computer invites a whole new set of back and neck problems. However, we can avoid these problems with a few pointers. So, Here's the scoop on how to save your back while sitting at the computer.

The Benefit of Using Good Posture

Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities.

A healthy back has three natural curves:

  • An inward or forward curve at the neck (cervical curve)
  • An outward or backward curve at the upper back (thoracic curve)
  • An inward curve at the lower back (lumbar curve)

When we practice good posture, it helps in maintaining these natural curves. When we forget good posture, the opposite happens - with poor posture we can pull a muscle which causes pain.

Correct posture:

  • Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
  • Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.
  • Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
  • Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
  • Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
  • Prevents strain or overuse problems.
  • Prevents a backache and muscular pain.
  • Contributes to a good appearance
  • Appear taller than you are

Checking Your Posture For Sitting At The Computer

When you first begin to make definite changes in the way you sit at the computer, you will not feel as relaxed as you normally do, and this is normal. Your body isn't used to the new changes you're making. Keep in mind that your goal is to keep your spine straight (except for the natural lower curve).

To do this, you may need to put a small pillow at your back. You can also roll up a towel, placing it in the needed area.

"Deviations in the body's center of gravity caused poor posture, which resulted in intestinal problems, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, osteoporosis, hip and foot deformities, poor health, decreased quality of life, and a shortened life span."

-Freeman JT., Posture in the Aging and Aged Body, JAMA 1957; 165(7), pp 843-846 JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association)

The above statement clearly states what can happen to the body when correct posture is not maintained.

When sitting or standing, make a conscious habit of "pulling in" the stomach as a way to raise the thoracic area (chest). If your stomach muscles are weak, you will feel a little muscle ache after you repeat this action a number of times.

Check your neck when sitting at the computer. Your ears should be directly above the shoulders. Avoid what is known as "forward neck", as this causes stiff neck and neck pain. Be sure to do a few head rolls, and if this makes you dizzy, turn your head from side to side to keep it flexible. another good stretch is to lower your chin to your chest - slowly and then tilt the head back.

Refrain from sitting more than 20 minutes at the computer and take a 10-20 minute break. Your body loves to be stretched. I try to stretch 3-4 times a day, followed by a nice cold glass of water. Your mind also appreciates a break now and then. Giving it a short rest from the computer will bring you clarity and focus.

As you begin creating better posture, you are creating a better you. Begin with baby steps. Don't forget to thank your body for the service it gives you. Treat it well. Nourish it, love it, and humor it.

Give Yourself a Back Break While Sitting at the Computer

Poor posture is one reason for back pain.  Sitting at the computer too long can also cause pain.  Take a break  every 20 minutes.
Poor posture is one reason for back pain. Sitting at the computer too long can also cause pain. Take a break every 20 minutes. | Source

Oh, My Ach'in Back

I have suffered from back pain my entire life. I have had three spinal epidurals Then, being low in vitamin D, I have suffered two spinal compression fractures. The most recent fracture appeared a few weeks ago. Hoping to avoid surgery, my doctor sent me to Physical Therapy. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I began my sessions with so much pain that I could barely move. I ended my sessions with complete relief of back pain. But the real plus is what I have learned about my own body and how to stand, sit, bend and move the correct way. With this new knowledge, I can better protect my back as I improve my posture,

I am grateful for my improvement and what I have learned through extensive therapy and a lot of hard physical work on my part. I hope to help all of you and especially my fellow writers who sit for long periods of time at the computer. We are ruining our backs which leads to other problems because of incorrect, bad posture.

How to Sit at the Computer

Strengthen Your Core to Strengthen Your Back

When your abdominal muscles are strong, these muscles act as a girdle for your back. A well-tone tummy isn't just for looks, it's alslo about keeping your back in good working order Tighter abs equal a stronger back.


"Deviations in the body's center of gravity caused poor posture, which resulted in intestinal problems, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, osteoporosis, hip and foot deformities, poor health, decreased quality of life, and a shortened life span."

-Freeman JT., Posture in the Aging and Aged Body, JAMA 1957; 165(7), pp 843-846 JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association)

Final Thoughts

Wikipedia.com had this to say about prolonged sitting:

"Spending many hours sitting each day is related to raised mortality and CVD risk regardless of total physical activity. Inflammatory and metabolic risk factors partly explain this relationship."

CVD is an abbreviation for Cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease.

Pull in those abdominal muscles while sitting. The stronger your core is, the less back pain you'll have. Do exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your back. Besides your abdominal muscles, include exercises to strengthen your pelvic area, hips, and back.

87% of young people have back pain. The other 13% have no computer.

You're never too young to learn how to sit at the computer.
You're never too young to learn how to sit at the computer. | Source

Do You Concentrate on Your Sitting Position While at the Computer?

See results

© 2011 Audrey Hunt

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    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Kristen Howe

      I do the same thing. A small pillow at my back helps me to sit up straight too. Thanks for being here and good back health to you.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      This is good to know Audrey. I seat in a cushioned ergonomical chair and sometimes put a pillow behind my back. It helps me tremendously when I'm feeling the pain.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Rusticliving - Oh, prettybaby, I do worry about your back! I'm so glad you checked out the tips in this hub. I know they will help - it's just so hard to remember to do them. I might have to send a little "back Angel" to you :)

      Thanks, for your vote and for the share. (I love your tiny heart - how do you make that?)

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 

      5 years ago from California

      Great Hub Vocalcoach! You know as well as anyone how much time I spend on the computer and at my desk. These are some excellent tips and I'm so ever grateful for the gentle reminders. (Holding in my stomach as I type) Voted up and shared! ----♥

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      theseus - hello my friend. Here's a tip for you. If you simply "pull in" your tummy from time to time, the chest will automatically lift and you will have pretty good posture. Easy to do. Remember to breath deep from the diaphragmatic area (tummy) to release toxins. :) vocalcoach

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      7 years ago

      My back and neck are telling me you wrote this one for me. It's probably my chair, but I seem to be achy all the time lately. Thanks for making the connection for me: poor posture = back ache. A very helpful hub!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      CM - So glad you told me about your hub on posture. I will edit this one and add a link to your hub:) You're right on about the back being a versatile subject to write about. I gained most of my information through my own experiences since I have been plagued by back problems most of my life. Thanks my dear friend for your wonderful comments. Now, excuse me while I go check out your hub and link it to this one. :) vocalcoach

    • CMCastro profile image

      Christina M. Castro 

      7 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

      Hey, vocalcoach, you did a good job with this. Did you know I wrote a hub a couple of months ago called "Your Posture,Of All Things"? I hope you get a chance to read it some time. Back care is the most versatile subject to write about because there is so much you can do to prevent problems, and if there are problems, the care and consciousness of one's posture, can be so tedious. Take care and I hope you have no back problems ever!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      mckbirdbks - I must constantly remind myself to keep my shoulders back, chest high and tummy in. It definetly makes a big difference in whether I have back pain or not. Thanks for your comment. See you at the bkstore. :)

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Most children resent being told to stand up straight. If they only realized how glad they will be later on. And you are right - she will indeed thank you one day. Thanks for your contribution Fay. :)

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 

      7 years ago

      Oh my, you do select the most useful hubs. I'm glad now that my mother was such a stickler for good posture. Though, I must admit, I see my daughter's eyes roll around in her head as I tell her to "sit up straight". She'll appreciate me someday. :)

      up/awesome

    • profile image

      Fosamax Fracture 

      7 years ago

      My son is so addicted with computer games, that he forgot he's lunch. And he makes a bad habit, he's bad sitting posture. May this will be a guide to him.

      Thanks!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      sueroy333 - I always thought I had good posture. Then I hurt my back. I was sent to a marvelous physical therapist. That's when I got my first news flash. Boy - did I have it all wrong. Glad this helped you. Thanks so much sueroy333. :) vocalcoach

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      I've been struggling with my posture for years! This was very helpful!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I used to have a problem with my posture until my grandmother made me practice walking with books on my head. (True story!) I know people think this is an old wives' tale, but our grandmothers lived in another world. Loved this wonderful hub.

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 

      7 years ago from California

      Fabulous hub vocalcoach! Especially as the years fly by, it is more important than ever to pay attention to our posture and make it a habit! Filled with useful information, rated up!!!!

    • amillar profile image

      amillar 

      7 years ago from Scotland, UK

      I forget about my posture. I try to sit up straight when I’m driving or sitting at the computer, and it lasts about a week, and then I’m back slouching again. I must remember to revisit this hub for encouragement.

      Up and useful.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 

      7 years ago

      I had to chuckle at the diagrams of the incorrect postures I am guilty of every single one of them. Looks like I will have to develop a little discipline in this area of my life as well.

      Thank you for the useful info.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      7 years ago from Sweden

      Very good hub about the need for right posture! It is so easy to slouch so we need to be reminded! I can feel it in my shoulders and the back when I haven’t had a good posture. And if we stand straight we will look much better too:)

      Very well written and great advices! Rated up.

      Tina

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      7 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      USEFUL & Voted UP, vocalcoach~~ we all need a reminder on the benefits of good posture... the pictures and references are great...thank you!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      7 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      This is a very useful Hub. Well chosen, informative and beneficial to those that can heed the advice.

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 

      7 years ago

      'Don't slouch' I say it many times a day to my son, he hates :) me for it, now I am going to have him read this hub. :) I suffer a bit due to years of practicing bad posture, now that I have understood this, I tell others. Thanks for sharing, useful hub!!

    • theseus profile image

      theseus 

      7 years ago from philippines

      vocalcoach,

      Another useful hub, coach!

      I am guilty of not having a perfect posture. My fault. I find it really bothersome to walk or sit like there is a book on top of my head that I have to balance all the time-with chest out and stomach in.The result? Back and neck pains.Hence, I'm now trying to improve my posture.I'm making progress, though,out of habit I sometimes forget.:(

      Thank's for sharing. God bless.

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