Office posturing

posturePoor760We don't want to call it a slump, but it's been a while since we've done a story on posture, ergonomics, standing desks or other office wellness topics. So when a story about how bad sitting posture can lead to bad standing posture popped up in The Wall Street Journal, well, we sat up straight in our chairs. Which is good, because, according to the article, "There's growing evidence that good posture contributes to a range of health benefits, from reducing back and joint pain to boosting mood." The reverse, unfortunately, can also be true.

By good posture, they're not just talking about "standing with the shoulders thrown back." Instead, reporter Jeanne Whalen writes that it's more important to have "good alignment, with ears over the shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over the knees and ankles." These days, she notes, our work styles and lifestyles are filled with things that keep us from practicing that proper posture. Computers, mobile phones, tablets, video game consoles, to name just a few. In fact, a Finnish study cited by Whalen found that "frequent use" of these devices was connected to adolescent pain in the neck (and lower back). And that's bound to translate to adults.

It improved our mood when we saw comments from Mayo's Andrea Cheville, M.D., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, about kyphosis, "one of the most common posture problems." Particularly her comments about what we can do to avoid or counter it. Kyphosis is a "forward rounding of the back," according to Mayo's website, which notes that while some rounding is normal, exaggerated rounding of the back can cause problems. "Many deskbound office workers have started standing and walking in this position," Dr. Cheville tells the Journal.

There are things we all can do, however, to keep us on the straight and narrow. Dr. Cheville's advice includes stretching pectoral muscles, strengthening upper back muscles, and, when sitting or standing, keeping "the ears and head over the shoulders, and not jutting forward." That jutting forward, one of the key culprits, means "the neck and head extend toward the computer screen, and the spine is no longer vertically aligned," Whalen writes. If you're reading this on a computer or mobile device, note your posture right now.

Back to that mood point, new research shows that posture can both affect and be affected by mood, Whalen writes. In other words, if you're feeling down, you might be inclined to slouch. But slouching can also bring you down, literally and figuratively. If you're having issues in the office, and you suspect they're posture-related, you should check out the handy symptom solver brought to you by Mayo's Office Ergonomics group. They offer lots of great advice for many of your office-related pains.

It won't hurt a bit to add your comments and share your posture tips below. And if you're so inclined, share this article with others using the handy social media tools.