Thursday, May 23, 2013

Improve Your Relationship with Your Chair

The more we sit and compute, the more of an adversarial role we tend to take with our chairs.  Just recently the Posture Police were called in to resolve the fight pictured above between a beagle and lounge chair.  

Earlier this week Businessweek published an interview with Alexander Technique teacher, Teva Bjerken advising on chairs in a SOHO furniture shop.  At the end of the article, she idicates after having rated many chairs, that if the person uses their body poorly, they may use any chair poorly.  Agreed!  A well-designed chair does not guarantee that a person will sit in it well.  Nonetheless, a chair designed well for the purposes of working at a computer can encourage less strenuous sitting.

Here are some guidelines to consider when purchasing a desk chair or modifying one that you already have.

1.  It's the right size - Make sure that you can adjust the chair so that your feet touch the floor when you are sitting all the way back.  A foot rest and or added back support can help if you would prefer to modify a chair you already have.

2.  Not too cushy - Whether you'd like cushioning at all is up to you, but either way you should ideally be able to feel the firm surface of the seat of the chair.  Sitting on something firm helps to prevent us from sinking down and too much cushioning near the front of the seat can put a lot of pressure on the backs of the thighs.

3.  Angle of seat - Make sure that the seat isn't angled back.  Instead check that it's flat or even angled slightly forward and down toward your feet.  This will help to keep your thighs from tensing up.  A foam wedge can do the trick if you'd like to modify a chair that you already have.

4. Back of Chair - For working at a computer, make sure that the back is straight up and that when you lean back, you're butt is all the way back in the corner so that you use the support and don't slump.  Save chairs that angle back for lounging.

So, Snoopy, after taking these tips into consideration, have you decided on a chair that will suit your needs?

snoopy sits upon his house typing 

You manage to sit human-style with very little trouble.  No chair required.  You look upright and comfortable.  Is that a PC or a Mac you are using?

Check out the Businessweek article for more information on choosing a chair.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Posture Check-List for Using Your Devices

New and varied technology is being developed so quickly, that these rectangle screens on which we view content, make content, send emails and messages, and place phone calls are generally being referred to as "devices".  A nice blanket word for a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or tablet that morphs into a laptop, and vice-versa.

If we thought that we were developing back, neck and shoulder pain sitting at a desk in front of a computer, we now don't even get a rest from our technology-induced postures when we are on the go.  The good news is that using a device does not have to be synonymous with strain.  

Here are a few things to keep in mind when using your devices:

1.  Move down, don't drop down - Typing on a smartphone or tablet usually involves holding it far than your eyes and looking down at it.  What causes strain is when you collapse down toward the thing that you are looking at.  Resist the urge to push your chin forward and sink down into your chest.  Instead of collapsing down, move down.  Start by looking at your device by first only moving your eyes, then let your head tilt by moving your brow first, not your chin.  

2.  Lift your device higher - This may seem obvious, but it is commonly ignored.  Move your device closer to your face with your hands so that you don't have to move down as far to see it.  Make sure that you don't lift your shoulders or pull your shoulder blades together as you lift.

3.  Less "work" doesn't mean less strain - Touch screens and the soft keyboards on laptops hardly require any effort to use . . . hardly any effort for the finger that is touching them, that is.  The low impact-typing that is required can actually be more of a strain than a relief.  The keys on ergonomic keyboards are designed like the old-school keyboards from the 80s and 90s.  You actually have to exert some effort to press the keys down and that effort demands that your arms, back, and even your legs be  engaged in a very positive way.  When softer pressing is required, it begs very little support from the rest of the body.

You may find it useful to purchase an ergonomic keyboard at your desk, but when you are out and about with your device, give yourself an extra reminder to be aware of your feet on the ground and of your back and neck and head as you touch-screen-type.  Also, imagine that the sensation of your finger touching the screen is traveling through your arm all the way to your back.  
If you really want to experiment with high-impact typing, then invest in a typewriter!  Kidding!  (Sort of.)