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The Desk Effect

Why does sitting at a desk all day make us so tired? Do you feel fatigued, sore or head achy after a long day's work behind a computer? We explain the physical mechanics and pitfalls of an immobile and faulty posture at work.

What is it?

How unpleasant is it to feel physically run down or achy after spending a day at work being immobile most of the time.

As a result symptoms often are chronic lower back pain (dull ache, soreness, tightness, stiffness, etc..), tension in between the shoulder blades and upper shoulders, muscular cramps around buttock and thigh area, as well as headaches, neck tensions and/or general fatigue.

It is normal to wonder how such an umbrella of symptoms is caused, symptoms that often stop you from enjoying your evening, doing physical activity at the same time as improving your posture.

These aches and pains are easily explained, and are attributed to an unequal share of our loads, weight and muscle function due to a wrong posture... Some parts of your body end up taking more function and weight than others, and honestly, how easy it is to drift away from the thought of sitting properly when the mind and eyes are focusing on one or often several computer screens?

Therefore, we will often find ourselves with a chest leaning over the desk, a curved upper back that is maintained in a fixed flexion and a very extended neck along with an elevated chin leveling to the screen level.

Does it have a name?

This situation is medically determined as an Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS).

On a short term, this poor posture will push your muscles to be simply strained and overactive. However, after a while, both anterior and posterior muscles become shortened, weak and that is when the impact on the posture is considered chronic, even when the person is standing, bringing a visual change of neck, shoulder and chest muscles.

The chronicity of a poor posture will lead to a continuation of these muscular strains and fatigue as well as accelerating age related degeneration (spinal arthritis).

Activities like reading, watching TV, biking, driving and using a laptop/phone can also emphasize that continual poor posture if not done correctly.

How can you fix it?

The first approach to changing this poor posture would be to follow certain exercises daily.

The first exercises can be done sitting oor standing and consist into retracting both shoulder blades, sticking them in the back pockets, at the same time as tucking in the chin.

This position should be maintained between 5 to 10 minutes and repeated several times a day.

Similarly, a lying exercise is advised, as it requires a bit more muscular mobilization. The following one should only be done for 3-5 minutes and should include breaks.

At the gym, the following exercises should be highlighted in order to optimize the recovery: Face pull, Seated row, shoulder bench press, squats.

Along with exercises, it is also really important to bring a change into the daily habits, and apply a peculiar attention to your sitting posture.

Sitting should be done as far back as possible in the chair, with both forearms resting partially at least on the desk (with elbows in an angle more than 90 degrees) and an extended back optimizing a straight neck and posture.

Finally, the combination of Osteopathy and Physiotherapy is recommended, especially if the situation has been maintained for a long time and when there is pain. Symptoms will be relieved and restrictions will be ruled out sooner in order to speed up the recovery. Alleviation, recovery and prevention is the ultimate key.

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