Hi all – and thanks for having me on the forum.
I sit a lot at a computer desk and recently decided to address the
ergonomics of my set up, as well as look into things like correct posture, etc.
I have no specific health issues I wanted to address, I was coming more
from a prevention is better than cure angle! Saying that, like many
people I do have a sore back/neck quite often after long periods at the
computer, as well as the odd niggling pains now and then.
So as part of this new approach I bought two new chairs to try out – a Knoll
Life chair and a Humanscale Freedom. I hoped the chairs – along with a
remedial understanding of correct sitting posture – would help to eliminate the
niggling pains, and to also prevent problems occurring unnecessarily later in
So far = WRONG!
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been experiencing more pains and aches
than ever! I can only assume it might have something to do with these new
changes, though I cannot be certain. The pains are not consistent. One day it might be in the lower back, on another
the upper back region. Sometimes the
shoulder. Etc etc. If it is something to do with the new
changes, I’m guessing it might be one of the following:
– My back is used to being hunched
and not used to being in the correct position.
Therefore, by sitting correctly I am using and stretching areas of the
body that have weakened over the years.
Due to the areas of weakness now being used, I am feeling the aches and
pains more acutely (much like I would if I did a type of exercise I have not
done for years). Does this sound
– I am trying too hard, and perhaps
by trying to sit correctly I am actually “over-doing it” and causing harm.
– Related to the above point…… I am overthinking
it. This might mean the pain is due to
me over focussing my mind on my back and noticing ever niggle more easily. It might also mean I am not relaxing when sat
down and the tension is causing pain.
I understand that this sort of thing is pretty much impossible to answer
without more detail and investigation, but I wondered whether the scenario is a
common one, and if so what the most common and likely reasons are.
I would also appreciate any other thoughts or comments which might help me
get over this and on the road to good health and a good back!
I am a fitness trainer, bodyworker, and ergonomist. It sounds as though an intervention with more of a holistic approach to address your postures and behaviors with and without your equipment would be most helpful for you at this time. Injuries occur due to taking a "wait and see" approach. There are numerous strategies you can take to avoid this, however, contacting a professional would be valuable for you now.
Wishing you a speedy recovery,
Your problems associated with attempting to change your posture are very common. The reason is, sitting, even sitting correctly, can and does cause new motor driven patterns. Although this is validated through my research as well as others I will just give you the simple explation and avoid the science and evidence behind it. Your body makes incremental muscular changes (increased tone) as well as fascial adaptations (tightness) based on the positions and movements you perform most often. Since your nervous system is a creature of habit, your central nervous system resets, to some extent, and holds on to these changes creating muscle imbalances leading to incorrect length tension relationships and ultimately pain and discomfort. With that said. What do you do? Simply perform stretches for the body parts which are shortened (chest, hips, etc..) and perform active strengthening exercises which activate your extension muscle groups (gluts, scapular retractors, triceps etc..). One simple way to reverse the affects of sitting all day is to frequently stand, extend your arms, wrists, and fingers, and pinch your shoulder blades together. Since this muscle pattern is the opposite of sitting this signals your central nervous system to re-activate the muscles that have been de-activated and at the same time stretch the tight and shortened musculature. I know this sounds to easy and simple to make a difference but I have worked with many fortune 500 companies and it works.
Trying new chairs is a good start, but keep in mind two things.
1. The chair and the way it’s adjusted has to fit what you do as well as your physique.
2. The chair needs to be considered in relationship to the workstaion you are using e.g. if you have a chair that fits and is adjusted well but the workstation is too high when you use it, you might be better off using a different chair. Unfortunately, considering the chair alone is a common problem.
Thank you so much to all who have replied and helped. I really do appreciate it.
I defintiely think it would be worth my while booking in to see a chiropractor and/or an ergonomist. I’d love for an expert to be able to check how I sit when at the computer and evaluate my posture – then advise on how to improve it. At the same time, it would be good to have an examination of how my back and other parts are doing and whether pre-existing problems are being worsened by my new sitting arrangements.
@BrianMcKeever. Great tips. A repetoire of exercises and stretches is something I am going to try to build up. I’m also becoming more and more aware – through practise and from my research – that the most important thing is the frequent breaks. Any specific stretches (or links to websites that show them) would be fantastic if you or anyone else has any.
@VirginiaHixson. Those are both good points. 1. Yes! The chairs are highly adjustable and as such it sometimes does cross my mind that aches and pains are being caused by incorrect set up. I have been looking into what constitutes a correct set up, so hopefully I’m getting there…. But you never know! 2. As it happens I have not adapted my desk yet, but that is in the pipeline. I think it is a bit high at the moment, and that could be causing some of the problems. Also, my TFTs are lower than they should be and I’m consious of the fact that that might be causing probllems too. Trouble is, I spend a lot of time in a music studio and that means a balancing act between ergonomics and room acoustics!
Back to my original post, I’m still none the wiser as to what is causing the new aches and pains. Whetehr it’s because:
– my body doing things it is not used to (ironically, I seem to get less aches and pains when I slouch. Maybe because my body is used to it?)
– I’m overdoing it and over exagerrating what I think is good posture.
– I’m overfocusing my mind on any little niggle or ache and therefore noticing everything and perhaps amplifying it too.
All very interesting.
Thanks once again
In my experience there is not a chair made that will successfully reduce discomfort over the "long term."
An earlier reply mentioned the patterns establlished via "nervous system" though I would consider the brain as the establishing entity. The brain has previously identified a particular "position" that was useful at the time. Habits are embedded in the brain as the most useful ends to a means.
Issue here is that each time you sit in a chair there is a whole new configuration. Nothing is static. 1001 and 1 differeces occur. Be it one’s state of mind, or the lighting, or _____________(fill in the blank). So to accomodate this "new" situation plasticity or having the brain identify the situation and refigure what is the best organization for that moment. An that moment is constantly changing so fixing it will evolve into another parasitic posture.
There are any number of modalities available that holf as their foundations the development of a flexible mind, plasticity, recovering the ability to choose moment to moment the easiest, less stressful, pain free movement of the body. Much like Michael Jordan’s ability to weave through defenders and rise to the basket over and over again. Never replicating always refiguring. And not "consciously" as he would be tripping over his own feet.
Aston Patterning, the Feldenkrais Method and several others provide a environment to revive one’s ability to choose what works best moment to moment. Sitting becomes effortless. The bones of the body become positioned to distribute the force, i.e. sitting, evenly through the structure. Sitting erect, organized allows the breath to flow, blood to flow, restructions are minimized. Sit better, think better, function better. An ever evolving, constantly renewing state that maximizes our potential. Then a expertly designed chair of work station becomes the tool to get the job. Then periodic breaks for standing, moving about, readjusting the eyes to focus on objects at varied distances (to offset the fixing inherent in a stationary monitor/chair become refreshilng not a lifesaver.
Our dedication to providing others with a enlivening workspace takes on a whole new dynamic.
I’m probably largely just repeating what has already been said (other than maybe user4047 who seems to be pushing snake oil) but I think all of your points are at least to some extent correct.
Chances are you changed postures drastically in that first setup and your body just was not used to it. I’ve seen people in the past that have only found a certain posture comfortable and it was likely that that ‘comfortable’ posture would eventually lead to problems. The idea is to try to slowly change (adapt) to a posture that does not apply unnecessary stress to the body.
The fact is: sitting is not a healthy posture. Some of the other posts have mentioned that you should be taking breaks whenever possible. This is very true, and you should try to not spend prolonged periods of time in the same posture no matter how ergonomically sound it is. Splitting up your day as much as possible (for example, not doing all your printing and filing at the end of the day, but spreading it out instead) can really help.
Try to apply some basic ergonomic principals for sitting including:
Here is a great resource for sound office ergonomics.
I would need to know more about what exactly it is that is not feeling right to give you more appropriate advice, but a very good start is to follow what most of the other posts have said in terms of getting your body ready for the change you are asking of it.
Hope this helps and good luck.
Hi Max –
Desk chairs are tricky matters, indeed…..I have found alot depends on body size and height. You almost have to try out chairs before you buy as even if the chair is fully adjustable, the seat depth or seat back height can make a big difference. I am 62 inches tall and chairs that my coworkers love (say they are 6 feet tall), are very uncomfortable for me. Then, as was mentioned, after you fit you to the chair, you have to fit the chair/you to the desk, especially if the desk height is not adjustable. A too high desk for your chair will give you neck/shoulder/back pain.
Sometimes "slouching" is not such a big thing if your chair is supporting you in your slouch. You have to have back support; you can even recline your seat back a little if your back is supported.
Working on your core strength and especially your abdominals will help your back.
And you are right, sometimes we are so focused on something, that it starts to take over all our thoughts! RELAX!
Good luck with this —
There is a lot of good advice in the other posts. Please realize that the 2 chairs you purchased are VERY different. there is no PERFECT chair that will work for all people…
The Knoll Life chair does not really support a lot of extension in the Lumbar area…if you are someone that is used to slouching it probably feels more intuitively correct for you. On the other hand, the Humanscale Freedom chair trends to hyperextend the lumbar area.
my favorite chair is the Herman miller Mirra – unless you are under 5'2" it should work great…be sure you have it adjusted in the forward seat tilt position when working onthe computer…
Natalie Campaneria PT, CEES
Baptist Health South Florida
There is a chair shown at the bottom of this website that might serve some of the issues you state.
I'm sitting on one right now – and have been for 20 years.
I have no back problems, but I am also in a line of work involving a lot of moving about.
In the 1980s I studied the effects of introducing ergonomic furniture, and reported it at the 25th International Congress of Occupational Health.
There is no point however in ergonomic instruction if it runs like "hold your head at 15° from the verticaland keep your forearms parallel to the floor". If a person can't sense it they can't do it.
As an individual, don't even try to follow such suggestions. Follow the principle instead, like "tight muscles hurt" and "you were born to move".
For instance, if your shoulders ache at the end of the day, it's a good bet that you are holding your shoulders up all day without realising. Raise your chair or lower your desk instead, so that good posture comes naturally. You shouldn't have to work hard at relaxing!
Your contribution comes afterwards, once the workplace allows you to relax. Some people remain tense at a perfectly adjusted workplace. They need plain language like "drop your shoulders, let your elbows hang loose".
There is an art to the way to work. if you know someone who does it well, who is productive and enjoys their work, find out how they do it. Anyone who enjoys their work and is interested in it will have figured out a dozen things that don't appear in any textbook.
David Brown, Sydney, Australia
David Brown, workplace psychologist and ergonomics consultant, Sydney Australia
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