Updated: Feb 18, 2020
I’m increasingly involved in discussions with corporate clients about employee wellbeing programmes and the introduction of health and fitness components to support them.
It’s a hot topic with HR departments for sure, with 28.2 million working days lost in the UK in 2018/19, 6.9 million of which were as result of musculoskeletal disorders*. As a massage therapist, I regularly treat people who suffer with soreness and tension in their back, neck and shoulders and I’m a strong believer in the importance of good posture in the workplace. Having been asked to make a short presentation as part of one of these programmes, my research led me to realise the even greater implications on our bodies if we neglect our posture and the way we hold ourselves, both inside and outside the work environment.
Not just a pain in the neck
Did you realise, for example, that an increase of a single inch in forward lean seated at your computer equates to an increase in pressure of 10lbs/4.5kg on your cervical spine? Poor posture can result in neck pain, headaches, jaw pain and general fatigue but it’s not just musculoskeletal issues that can arise: if repeatedly uncorrected, poor posture can also lead to problems with digestion, circulation and even incontinence.
For a huge proportion of the population, every day we’re confronted with activities that challenge our posture - leaning over our computers, driving, studying our mobile devices – and the implications of poor posture on our health are an ever-increasing threat.
Review, Adjust, Move, Stretch
I firmly advocate the importance of regularly reviewing and correcting posture during the working day and of getting up out of your chair to regularly move and stretch – no-one should be too busy to take a short break from ‘head-down’ mode several times a day, indeed it’s behaviour that HR teams with a positive approach to employee wellbeing would positively encourage. Maybe set yourself an alarm to remind yourself to check your posture every couple of hours?
Using the above advice, the acronym RAMS is a good way to help manage good posture – Review, Adjust, Move, Stretch.
Here are three easy stretches you can do at your desk to help relieve tightness and reset the neck and shoulder muscles.
1) Neck rotation overstretch
Rotate your neck sideways to the end of its range. Place the palm of your hand on the side of your head and gently push your neck into slightly more rotation.
2) Neck flexion with side flexion
Bend your neck to the side, by taking your left ear towards your left shoulder. Tuck your chin towards your chest and increase the stretch by pulling your head further across. Push back with your head, matching the push with the pull of your hand. After 7-8 seconds stop the push with your head and slightly extend the stretch by pulling further with your hand.
3) Shoulder retraction
Sit upright and rest your arms by your sides. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and at the same time pull your arms backwards and outwards.
* Office of national statistics