4 Steps to Undo Computer Posture and Associated Aches and Pains

A few months ago I noticed my lower back started to ache. Not much at first. Not enough for me to do anything about it. But over the months I just accepted the dull pain as being part of my day.

Even though I spend 5 to 6 hours a day on the gym floor with clients, I spend at least another 4 or 5 hours either driving or sat (or should I say slouching) at my computer.

Eventually my back got to the stage where I couldn’t get comfortable. Forever shifting about to find a position where I wasn’t aware of the dull ache was the last straw. I decided to do something about it!

Stop the Pain!

First I got a little soft tissue work by a local therapist to work out the knots and relieve the tension. And to be honest I felt pretty good after this. But I know from past experience that if I didn’t do anything to correct the cause of the problem the pain would soon be back.

self massage works well too in the absence of a good pair of hands

Turns out all the sitting I’d done had made some of my muscles tight and other muscles overstretched and weak. This put a huge strain on my muscles and joints… which resulted in lower back ache.

So, after adjusting my workstation (so I didn’t need to spend as much time sitting down each day) I added a few simple exercises to improve my posture and offset the effects of too much slouching.

my new improved standing work station

 

These are the 4 steps I followed to help improve my posture and eliminate my lower back ache (You can download a PDF version of the whole ‘Reversing Computer Posture’ (RCP) programme along with pictures and instructions here).
 

Step1: Loosen Quads & Hip Flexors

When we sit for long periods with our hips flexed the muscles that flex the hip tighten up. When we stand our now tight hip flexors (which attach to the front of the pelvis and the spine) pull the pelvis forward into an anterior tilt. This forces the lower back to have an exaggerated hollow, putting a great deal of stress on the spine. Overtime this inevitably leads to low back pain.

Here’s a stretch from the RCP programme to help reduce the hollow in the lower back:

Quad Stretch

 

Step 2: Loosen Chest & Upper Back

After a while of sitting at the computer our upper back tends to round and our shoulders slump forward. Being in this position day in day out causes the muscles across the front of the chest become short and tight, while the upper back muscles become overstretched and weak.

Ok, so maybe your posture's not this bad... yet 😉

 

To reverse this we need to restore mobility to our upper back, stretch the chest and strengthen the upper back muscles so they can hold us upright. Here’s an exercise from the ‘Reversing Computer Posture’ programme to get the ball rolling:

 

T-Spine Extension, Rotation & Lateral Flexion

 

 

Step 3: Wake Up the Butt

The butt muscles (AKA the glutes) and supposed to be the most powerful muscle in the body. But when we sit for 6 hours a day they tend to switch off. The majority of clients I’ve tested that work a desk job have glutes that either fire up late, or don’t fire up at all!

 

you know you've been sitting too long when your chair looks like this

 

When our glutes are lazy the hamstrings and lower back have to work overtime to compensate. This leads to chronically tight hamstrings (which are more susceptible to strains) and a lower back that’s always aching. An example from the RCP programme is the supine hip extension:

 

 

Step 4: Strengthen the Core

Ever heard the term ‘use it or lose it’?. When we’re sat slumped at a desk all day we don’t really use our core muscles.

Because these muscles are designed to protect and stabilise our spine, if our core muscles aren’t working we end up putting unnecessary strain on the passive structures like the vertebrae, discs, ligaments and tendons (all things we don’t want to damage right?). A sample exercise from the RCP programme is the lower abdominal leg slide:

 

 

Summary

Ok, Ok, so you get the point. If you want to undo that computer posture and get rid of the aches and pains for good you need to:

Loosen off your hip flexors, chest and upper back

Strengthen your butt, upper back and core

If you’re fed up of the ongoing niggles you’ve just got used to then try some of the exercises above. Choose the ones that give you the most relief and use them daily.

You can download a printer friendly PDF version of the whole ‘Reversing Computer Posture’ programme (along with pictures and instructions) here