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deep shoulder muscles standing posture seated posture neck muscles

Office and computer-based workers tend to be guilty of ‘forward head posture’. To put it simply, the head is too far in-front of the body.

We are not as self-aware as we think. Many of us are wearing out our body through unconscious misuse and repeated harmful patterns. There is no need to crane your neck forward, if you need to look closer to the screen then move the screen nearer to you. The workstation should be set up to suit your body, do not adjust your posture to see the screen or over-reach for the mouse and keyboard.

The head is relatively heavy compared to the fragile structure of the neck. The heads centre of gravity is slightly in-front of the spine which puts a strain on the neck and erector spinae muscles (running parallel down the outer sides of the spine) in order to support this weight.

 

Forward head posture forces the sternocleidomastoid muscles at the front of the neck to ‘hold up’ the head which is otherwise suspended in mid-air, this puts extra burden on the trapezius muscle (upper back) to support head movements in addition to stabilizing the shoulder blades.

Most office workers I treat have similar issues - tight upper trapezius, tight and/or shortened pectoral muscles, weak mid/lower trapezius, rhomboids and often weak erector spinae muscles. The cervical (neck) vertabrae are also likely to be compressed. When the head is in forward posture it also pulls the erector spinae muscles with it, which is why they can often be weak.

 

I advise clients to become more aware of their posture by looking in the mirror and also resetting their posture throughout the day. It is also important to check that when we are standing or walking that are legs are directly under the pelvis. We should not tuck our pelvis under as our upper body automatically leans forward in order to balance.

Yoga and pilates are great for releasing and strengthening numerous muscles. Excessive gym and weight-lifting exercise can exacerbate issues as this often works on the same muscle groups/fibres that have been over-worked sitting at the desk all day. This is particularly true if the posture is not corrected during the workout as tight muscles become tighter and weak muscles are neglected. The weaker muscles are the ones that should be conditioned to take the pressure off the already over-used muscles.

 

Gentle neck stretches before the working day can help. We warm up our body before a work-out, but it is also important to prepare the body before sitting at our desks all day. Even if we start the day with good posture, after a few hours the erector spinae muscles fatigue and the neck and shoulder muscles  are called upon to hold the body upright.

Desk Exercises