One of the things that we as programmers accept in our line of work is the constant sitting down. Often we’re in the “saddle” for hours on end (8+ hours a day) and our range of movement is limited to picking up the coffee cup and putting to our mouths.
Not only is this sedentary posture bad for your body, but it also leads to the possible development of a nasty looking hunchback later in life.
Yeah.. that just looks painful.
So what can you do to fix the problem? Can you really fix your posture after this many years of sitting slouched infront of the computer screen?
This is something I asked myself earlier in the year after one too many sessions of “getting the kids to stand on daddy’s back and jump” caused even more problems than it was supposed to fix.
Since then I’ve been on a mission to find out what I can do to fix my dodgy posture and go from hunchback to straightback again.
Here’s a list of hacks I’ve come up with to fix dodgy programmer’s posture.
#1. Switch to a stand-up desk
This might sound like one of those fad things to do from a couple of years back, but I switched to an adjustable standing desk (with a hand crank so you can move it up and down easily) and the result was quite impressive.
However, you do need to do the transition correctly or else you might do yourself some damage.
When I first started I thought I’d have to stand all day to reap the benefits, but I found easing myself into standing was better.
This immediately resolved a lot of the pain I had in my upper back and shoulders, but because I wasn’t used to standing up all day at my desk, it did shift the problem elsewhere.
At first, my lower back felt fine, but after a few weeks towards the end of the day I would feel this numbness across my lumbar.
It probably was a result of not activating my core enough, something you have to get used to doing.
#2. Don’t stand all the time
Initially I just dropped my desk height back down and continued working in my old chair.
The problem with that was it was a little too comfortable and I ended up slipping straight back into old habits of slouching, leaning on the arm rests, etc.
Eventually I bought a height adjustable wobble stool which let me lean on the stool when my feet or lower back started to ache a bit too much.
The wobble part is really neat because you can lean properly without the stool feeling like it will fall over.
This definitely helped and allowed me to get through the day without sitting down at all and after a few more weeks the lower back pain was gone.
#3. Use a foot rest
Even when sitting down, adding a footrest is also a good idea.
Elevating your feet improves circulation and takes the pressure off the base of your spine.
Searching for something to use, I came across an old foot stool that I made in highschool woodshop class and shortened the legs on one end so that it would be angled slightly.
When standing up it means I was able to occasionally lift one leg up to take the pressure off that foot. Then I when the other foot starts to get tired, I just alternate to the other leg.
Doing this really helps your ankles and takes the pressure off your joints by shifting your centre of gravity.
#4. Get a pressure mat
Most big supermarket chains have long recognised the OH&S benefits of pressure mats as they relieve the pressure you feel on the soles of your feet standing on a hard surface all day.
In my case, our office is tiled and unless you’re wearing shoes it kills your feet if you stand on it in the same position for long periods.
I went to a local hardware store and found these square tiles that they use on gym and yoga studio floors and bought four. I stacked two together and it basically gives me a 1.5m x 0.75m rectangle of pressure sensitive matting.
#5. Consider a posture kneeling chair
My final suggestion however is to consider purchasing a posture correcting kneeling chair.
I found this kneeling chair that I replaced my stool with recently, and while it’s still fairly new, the results have been positive so far.
It keeps me elevated up to almost standing height while giving me somewhere to “sit down” when my body gets tired of standing.
If you are considering any of the points above and specifically the stand up desk solution my main advice is this:
Listen to your body.
If you feel tired, sit down.
If you can’t stand up for 8hrs a day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Try doing it for half a day or even a couple of hours here and there.
Experiment and find something that works for you.
Your back will thank you for it!