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TAKE A SEAT: Posture tips and exercises

Working from home during the quarantine and having neck pain or low back pain?

Let’s check your sitting posture!

Being “on pause” in NYC means that many of us are sitting even more than usual, whether it’s while working from home, FaceTiming with friends, or binge watching Netflix. Creating a more ergonomic workstation and incorporating some simple exercises can help to reduce discomfort from prolonged sitting.

First, let’s review an ideal sitting posture….

Can you find everything that might sub optimal with this sitting position?

Much better! This is an example of optimal sitting posture.

However, rather than trying to maintain this ideal posture all the time, it is important that we take breaks from holding any static position. Here are tips on how you can improve your ergonomic setup and simple exercises to help decrease tension and strain. Take a break after every 20-30 minutes of sitting and try some of the exercises below. Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself when it is time for a break!


Make sure that the top of your monitor is at about eye level and that the monitor screen is about an arm’s length away (18-24”). Adjust your screen brightness to match surrounding ambient light to decrease strain on your eyes (your device might have an auto-adjust function.) Also enable night shift on your device if available to reduce blue light from your display at night, making it easier on your eyes in dark environments.

· Exercise: Gaze away: every 20-30 minutes, look off into the distance at least 20 feet away (across the room or out the window) for about 20-30 seconds to give your eyes a break. Combine this with a standing/walking break for whole body benefits.


Make sure that your head is back and that your chin is slightly tucked. When using your cell phone, bring the screen up to eye level using your arms; do not drop your head down to look at your screen. If using your phone in sitting, use the chair armrests to support your elbows while you look at your phone or if the chair has no armrests, use pillows in your lap to support your elbows.

· Exercise: Chin nod: While sitting or standing upright, slowly jut your chin forward as far as possible, then slowly reverse this movement by moving your chin toward where your Adams apple would be and your head back as far as possible while keeping your chin in position. Hold for 5 seconds. You may feel a gentle stretch at the base of your neck. Slowly relax and repeat 5-10 times.


Make sure your shoulders are relaxed.

· Exercise: Shoulder rolls: slowly roll your shoulders up and back 5-10 times.

· Exercise:

Shoulder blade squeezes (scapular retraction): While seated or standing, pinch your shoulder blades together as if squeezing a pencil in the center of your back. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly relax and repeat 5-10 times.


Make sure that your fingers are relaxed and that your wrists are straight to allow for adequate blood flow to your tissues.

· Exercise: Prayer stretch: place your fingers and palms together with your hands in front of your chest, and fingers pointing upward. While keeping your palms together and your elbows out, lower your hands until you feel a gentle stretch in your wrists. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat 2-3 times.


Make sure that your chair supports your lower back. If not, use a pillow or rolled up sweatshirt to fill in the gap.

· Exercise: Pelvic rocks: while seated in your chair, slowly tilt your hips back, rounding your back, and then slowly tilt your hips forward arching your back. Repeat 5-10 times.

· Exercise: Decompress your spine: lie on the floor on your back with your legs elevated over an ottoman, chair, or couch so that your hip and knees are bent at 90°. Relax in this position for 10-20 minutes/day.


Make sure your hips are at approximately 90° and that your thighs are parallel to the ground.

· Exercise: Sit to stand: While seated in your chair, bring your toes back underneath your knees, lean forward a little to bring your nose over your toes, and push up with your legs into a standing position. Slowly sit back down in a controlled manner. Repeat 5-10 times. This will improve blood circulation and stretch the front of the hips.

· Exercise: Tummy time: Lie face down on the floor or yoga mat. This will help to stretch the front of the hips. Relax in this position for 5-10 minutes/day. If you need to place a pillow underneath your stomach to ease your lower back you may.


Make sure that both your feet are resting flat on the floor with your thighs parallel to the floor. Do not cross your legs, knees or ankles. You may need a foot rest to keep your feet from dangling or to keep from going up on your toes.

· Exercise: Heel raises: While sitting, lift your heels off the floor using your calf muscle; keep the balls of the feet in contact with the floor, and then slowly lower your heels down. Repeat 10-20 times.

Stay healthy and safe!

Desiree Unsworth, PT, DPT


This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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