Taking care of You – Article II

by Popie Matsouka

Prolonged sitting in front of a computer can affect your health and your posture. And translators know this too well.

We live in a high-tech world and almost all of us spend hours each day sitting in front of our computers. Translators, especially, work anywhere from 8 to 14 hours straight, if not more, depending on their workload, and 99,99% of that is done in front of a computer. We do the same thing at night, sitting in front of the television, often with our computers on our lap or our phones in our hand. Apart from anything else, our bodies are taking a lot of strain and our posture is not looking good.

Posture is the way you hold your body at any given moment, the way you stand, sit, walk or lie down. And bad posture is bad for the health; it is as simple as that. From cervicalgia (neck pain) to middle back pain, and from pain in the hips, knees and even headaches, we have all experienced the ill effects of incorrect posture while working. Oh, prolonged sitting in general is bad for your health, as indicated by several researches by medical professionals, but let’s take this one (correct) step at a time.

There are quite a few things that you can do, easily and without spending any money, to improve your posture, strengthen your back, neck and shoulders, and ultimately improve your health.

Let’s first take a look at what good posture means.

When you sit, the key parts of your body should all be in alignment and supported equally by your muscles. Try and sit up straight, drop your shoulders and suck in your core (the general area around your belly-button). You will immediately look much better and feel stronger and more balanced.

A good posture will:

  1. Keep you balanced and centred
  2. Lengthen and strengthen your spine
  3. Reduce the strain on your body both in terms of energy and in terms of overuse
  4. Reduce wear and tear on your joints, muscles and ligaments
  5. Improve your overall spine and neck health
  6. Reduce the risk of strained muscles and injuries
Source: Freepik

So, what are the best sitting positions, especially for people who spend so much time in front of their computers?

This will depend on the person, their height and their weight, and also the kind of chair and work surface they are using, but here are a few notes:

  1. Keep your feet flat on the floor or rest them on a footrest below your chair.
  2. Your legs should be slightly apart and you should not cross your knees or ankles.
  3. There needs to be a gap between the back of the knees and the chair.
  4. Your knees should be at the same height as your hips or just a little lower.
  5. Your ankles should be in front of your knees.
  6. Your shoulders should be loose and relaxed.
  7. If possible, keep your forearms and knees parallel to the floor.
  8. Keep your back straight (“sit up”) and if possible, against the back of your chair.
  9. Keep your stomach sucked in, i.e., suck in your core.
  10. Keep in mind not to strain your neck. Try and look ahead, rather than down.
  11. Try to take at least 10-15-minute breaks every hour and walk around a bit or work out.
Source: Freepik
Source: Freepik

Taking a break from sitting every once in a while, is one of the most important tips. Whether you work from home or in an office, anywhere really, stand up and stretch every 10-15 minutes. Walk around for a little. And even when you are standing or walking, keep in mind to have your shoulders relaxed, your back straight and your core tight.

One good set of simple exercises can be found here and is provided by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

More and more people are struggling with sore backs, neck pain, headaches and more because of extended periods of sitting. You can take note of all of the above and try and incorporate a good-posture set of exercises into your daily life. You need to be actively aware of your shoulders, neck, back, stomach, legs, knees and ankles in the beginning, but after a while, good posture will come naturally to you. Bad posture can be corrected over time, and you will see benefits to your health, you just need to remind yourself to keep sitting well.

Good posture has muscle memory. If you do it all the time, your body will remember to keep doing it. But you do need to work at it. If your body is used to slumping, it is going to automatically slump. Try and be aware to sit straight and well at all times.

If you are sitting straight but are still having problems, then you may need to look at alternate sitting options which can include chairs that are specially designed to strengthen your back and overall posture. Talk to your healthcare professional about available options and seek further advice. Some of the available options are:

  1. Specially designed Ergonomic chairs
  2. Pilates or Yoga Balls used as chairs (I do this one myself, it’s quite a workout but FUN!)
  3. Look at or try out a specially designed Knee Chair

Avoid slumping at all costs

Source: Freepik

You need to avoid slumping over your work surface. It’s easy when you start getting tired to hunch your back and start leaning into your table or computer. Be aware. If you feel yourself getting tired, take a break. Stand up, stretch out, do a little walking. You could also, if you have the space and privacy, do some exercise. If you are going to do exercises, yoga, pilates or simple back stretches, you should always get the advice of a doctor or health instructor/trainer first. You want to make sure that your exercises are done properly and don’t damage you in any way. Any core fitness exercise, where you are sucking in your core, should be beneficial for a bad back.

Sometimes, achieving good posture is a combination of many different things. Try and walk regularly. Work out when you can. Do a mixture of stretching, strengthening and aerobic activity. And be very aware when you sit of sitting correctly. Try not to sit in one position for too long, remember to keep your back straight, remember your stomach and your core, drop those shoulders and look ahead. One of the pluses except improving your health is that correct posture also does wonders for self-esteem 😉

By the way, it’s also very important that your screen is at eye level. Look at your screen right now! Are you currently reading this article on a screen that is too low? Are you looking down instead of straight ahead? Then this is your chance to start correcting your posture right now! Go ahead, try it 😊

 

References:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/4485-back-health–posture

https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment

https://www.spine.org/KnowYourBack/Prevention/LifestyleChoices/10TipsforaHealthyBack

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321863.php

https://www.livestrong.com/article/96763-bad-posture-symptoms/

https://www.healthline.com/health/sitting-positions

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/better-posture-exercises#1

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/spine-conditioning-program/spine-conditioning-program-pdf/

This information is provided only as general information and is definitely not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. I am not a doctor nor a medical or health professional. Please consult your doctor for advice and address any questions to them.

About the author:

Popie is an accomplished Localization Project Manager and Linguist, having worked in these fields for more than 17 years. Her main fields of expertise are Life Sciences, IT, Gaming and Consumer Electronics. She holds a BSc in Translation from the Ionian University, and various other diplomas ranging widely from Project Management, to IT, to First Aid. Her working languages are Greek, English, French, and Italian. Her favorite pastime is to research online on various ways to solve problems, reading paranormal romance and mystery novels, and pilates.

She volunteers for the Red Cross and is a firm believer that if we all work together we can make a great difference in this world, combining our professional and our personal strengths.

Last, but not least, she is the elected Secretary of PEEMPIP, and also a Mentor in the Mentoring Program of PEEMPIP, guiding new translators.

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