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Optimizing Work Posture for Ergonomic Success

It’s 2 pm and you are reaching for your 3rd donut from the box sitting open on the counter at your works kitchen. The midday sugar crash. An extremely common occurrence in the world of sedentary jobs. But it’s not just the nature of the job, it’s the ergonomics of the sitting.

The human body is designed to move. And yet, the average American spends at least 8-12 hours each day sitting. Excessive sitting can cause poor regulation of blood sugar, increased blood pressure and has therefore been linked to diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. What’s more, the chairs and desks we utilize that determine our overall posture are not ergonomically sound – leading to neuromusculoskeletal symptoms.

We are chiropractors by training, meaning we are neuromusculoskeletal doctors that work with the spine, muscles, nerves and joints, but we are movement specialists at heart. Focusing on how all of these parts work together.

Mobility vs Stability

We see this on a daily basis at Urban Wellness Clinic– an inability to do something we want or move how we need without pain or limitation. And consistently, we find that the majority of MOBILITY issues, or stuck joints and tight muscles, are an underlying STABILITY issue, or a weakness or energy leak somewhere else in the body, aka a compensation.

Those tight shoulders and upper back may need some breathing drills and glute activation to reset the core and make the shoulders melt.

The body works as a kinetic chain. A shoulder issue could be a breathing issue, stemming from a core issue. Each one of these things is directly related to and affected by our posture, and since the average person spends at least 5 days per week at work – proper work posture is key.

What is Good Posture?

When evaluating posture, we often start from the feet up. The best position is a neutral one! What does that mean? It means the body is stacked in a position that is most optimal for breathing and core functioning. The key things to look for:

  • Feet firmly planted on the floor – This gives our body the feeling of being grounded and gives us that solid foundation of stability up the chain.
  • Feet hip-width apart – This forms a stable, more sustainable base; and it puts the hips in the most neutral
  • Hips in line with the knees, or slightly above with a 90-degree bend in the knees – This prevents compression of the hip joint, which can cause a tilt of the pelvis and lead to lower back stress.
  • Shoulders stacked over the hips – Not in front of or behind which is also known as slouching! Shoulders stacked sets the core up for its best positioning for a relaxed and functioning diaphragm. It also facilitates a neutral position of the neck. When we stray from this position, the neck tends to lean forward causing strain in the muscles and neck pain.
  • Support of the chair against all of the curves of the spine – Our body was made to have these natural curves in all of the spine. When gravity loads
    the spine on the center of the discs it is the most stable position. A chair that provides that upright feeling of support is inherently better for sustainable proper posture.
  • Elbows supported by the armrests – A neutral position of the shoulders is key, especially for people who often feel neck and upper back pain after a day’s work. The arms should always have support, limiting the amount of tension placed on the upper trap and neck muscles.
  • Wrists in line with the elbows or slightly below – When the wrists are higher than the elbows, excess tension is placed on the biceps, elbow and wrist joints. Keeping non-postural muscles tight wastes precious energy. Typing all day without the wrists in a neutral position will place extra pressure on the carpal tunnel and can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Computer monitor about 18-24 inches away – Eye strain is very common and can lead to headaches. A screen that is too far away will lead to the tendency of craning the neck forward. The head weighs about 10 pounds- that’s a heavy load for the shoulders to carry! Bringing the screen closer will allow the head to be in a more central position over the shoulders and decrease strain.
  • Eye line should hit the top 1/3 of the computer monitor – A monitor that is too high or too low will cause extension or flexion of the neck, respectively. Holding this position for many hours throughout the day stresses the neck joints and causes tension headaches, rounding of the shoulders and fatigue.
  • And so much more

All of these changes have one main goal: to find the most neutral position for your body. Work posture is dynamic! It is unrealistic to expect to stay in perfect posture for an 8 hour workday. We recommend moving from sit to stand, or just taking a walk every 20—30 minutes to reset and avoid fatigue.

Effects of Bad Posture

  1. Poor posture affects the position of the diaphragm. Not being able to take a good belly breath leads to respiration changes. Breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, rather than deep and slow. This type of breathing supplies less oxygen to the brain. Hence, the 2 pm crash reaching for the coffee and donuts.
  2. Poor posture places excess tension on muscles and compression on structures that are not meant to hold weight. This can lead to stresses and strains, but also leads to wasted energy by the muscles and we fatigue quicker
  3. The cumulative effects of this poor posture and its resulting fatigue affects our mood, alertness, efficiency and productivity.

We see longstanding benefits and long-term pain relief from making small, significant work-setup changes. A recent patient that came into the clinic was suffering from headaches and constant neck and shoulder pain. After treatments, she would feel great, but by the end of the following workday, the pain would return.

We had her bring us a photo of herself sitting at her desk. Together we fixed the height and placement of her screens, brought her keyboard and monitor closer to her and gave her the support of the armrests so that her shoulders weren’t hiked up causing constant tension.

After her next visit, the relief she got from treatment lasted her the entire week and continued to improve with fewer setbacks.

Ergonomic Assessments

Everybody is different when it comes to the most ergonomic work posture for you because every BODY is different!

Ergonomic workplace assessments are something we do with every new patient that comes into the clinic. Proper work posture is critical to sustained pain relief and proper functioning.

Run through the above checklist for what your desk looks like. And when you need a little extra help it’s important to turn to a specialist.

At Urban Wellness Clinic we provide individual ergonomic assessments to make the necessary changes your body needs. Our patients get individual attention with their desk set up, and we often travel to offices to make hands-on specific changes at the request of the company.

Check out a list of our recommended products here. Work chairs for good posture, desks, footrests and monitor stands can all be great additions and important ergonomic assessment tools that may be right for your body.

Our goal is to get you out of pain, and then give you the tools to not only stay out of pain but to fix yourself! If you’re wondering if your work-place setup is contributing to your pain, or are interested in an ergonomic assessment, feel free to call us at 212-355-0445 or shoot us an email at


Dr. Adriana Lazare, DC