Posture and taking care of your body
We all know that doing tasks for a long uninterrupted time can have lots of negative effects on a person. As I talked about in the first part of this blog, It wears on the mind quite significantly. It also wears on the body. Coding isn’t the most active of activities, we sit in front of a screen for most of the day. Many of us now have working stations that we created in our homes, but we are not all experts at creating an ergonomic place to work. The impact that sitting in a bad posture for a long time can have major repercussions on our bodies. I have experienced this first hand, sometimes sitting in pain all day because my computer setup was so bad. I have learned to adjust my workstation, as well as the use of different stretches and tools. I want to share some of the ways that I have used to help fix my posture while I am working at the computer.
First off, I am not a medical expert, nor am I promoting any of the products I am talking about below, I am sharing my experience and how I went from feeling constant neck and back pain to feeling no pain at all while I work. If you are feeling any sort of pain, I recommend consulting a medical expert and doing research of your own to find ways to feel better.
I've always had a PC at home, to play games on, or research and work. I never spent a long time sitting at the computer without breaks though. Ever since I had to start working from home — and then when I joined Flatiron — I have been at my computer for hours at a time every day of the week. I eventually started to feel soreness and pain in my right shoulder, my neck, and my lower back. I thought I had a good setup because I was working at a desk with a computer chair, not slouched over a small lap-top screen on the couch. But it turns just having a designated working area is not enough to deter pain, there is a lot you can do to improve where you work so that you are not damaging your body.
The Station — Your computer should be on a flat surface, and you should set up the monitor to be at or slightly above eye level. Looking down tends to pull your neck forward, straining the neck muscles. You also want the monitors closing enough so that you do not have to squint or move forward to see what is on the screen. When we move forward, we tend to slouch and bring our head forward, this can strain the neck and back. The keyboard and mouse should rest close enough so that your arms are at a 90-degree angle. You don't want to be reaching for the keyboard and mouse, or have it so close that you have to pull back to use them. Your hips should be as far back on the chair as possible to help promote the normal curvature of the spine.
My original station was an “L-shaped” desk with little room underneath so I was forced to reach for my mouse and keyboard, I was always reaching forward and that put a lot of strain on my right shoulder. I eventually switched to a large rectangle sit/stand desk with plenty of space underneath so that I can be directly underneath my desk. I chose to get a desk that raises and lowers to be able to stand while I work to force myself to change positions throughout the day.
Stretching — There are many different stretches out there that help to relieve pain and discomfort. I started a daily routine of stretching my back, neck, and shoulders throughout the day. I now stretch in the morning and every two hours throughout the day. I recommend searching for a routine that works best for you. (Bonus: Yoga is definitely a great habit to get into to help with stretching, nowadays it is very easy to get into and they have classes for all levels.)
Gear — I have developed quite an arsenal of different devices that help me with my posture. These are all intended to correct posture or help with soreness in some way.
Massage Hook + Foam Roller
These are both great for massaging any knots or tightness you may be feeling in any part of the body. The hook is great for pin-point sore-spots and it can easily get hard to reach parts of the back. The roller is very effective in smoothing out muscle tissue, it also helps to stretch your muscles.
This device may look painful. but it is actually very relaxing, it helps stretch the back and help realign the spine by laying on it for a few minutes at a time.
Posture Correcting Harness
The harness helps pull the shoulders back to prevent forward slouching, it does great things for shoulder and neck pain.
I have this on the back of my chair all day, it sits at the base of the chair at meets your lower back, it helps keep an upright posture and prevents slouching.
The pain I would feel from sitting all day has died down quite a bit. But it took a lot of commitment to repair the damage I had done to my body. The tools I used really helped me a lot, but this can all be prevented if you care for your body, stay active and stretch daily, and stay aware of how you are working.