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Get your posture correct: An orthopaedic surgeon gives tips & exercises for the right posture as we return to offices

Work from home not only restricted our movement, but also led to extended working hours, where people ended up sitting in one position for long hours. This not only causes stiffness in the body but also leads to soreness and rise in cases of hunch shoulders.

Increased screen time and lack of proper workstations have put immense strain on the spine, causing prolonged discomfort
Increased screen time and lack of proper workstations have put immense strain on the spine, causing prolonged discomfort

Dr Yash Gulati

Work from home usually meant working from beds or arm chairs instead of proper desks. How has this affected posture for most people during the pandemic?
Work from home not only restricted our movement, but also led to extended working hours, where people ended up sitting in one position for long hours. This not only causes stiffness in the body but also leads to soreness and rise in cases of hunch shoulders. When at work, small activities like walks to the water cooler and lunch breaks ensured enough mobility, flexibility and seamless blood circulation in the body. However, the format of work from home took that away.

Consequently, increased screen time and lack of proper workstations have put immense strain on the spine, causing prolonged discomfort. In the long run, increased upper body tension can lead to us being bent out of shape.

What are the areas of concern for bad posture and problems arising due to it, especially concerning neck, shoulder, head, back and arms?
Prolonged wrong posture not only gives you a bad backache, but can cause long-term complications as severe as spinal or musculoskeletal disease. Some common but severe problems arising out of bad posture are:

Back pain, stiffness in neck and shoulder: Pain and tension in your upper back, neck and lower back can be caused by slouching or poor posture. This can restrict ease in any kind of movement and cause discomfort. It is important to understand that if someone is going through this pain, they should not try to correct it by themselves, but consult an expert who will suggest them appropriate exercise and medicines.

Poor blood circulation: Sitting at one place daily for prolonged hours can put you at a risk of developing blood circulation-related problems.
Heavy breathing: When a person is leaning forward for a long time, lungs receive insufficient oxygen that can impact lungs adversely. This can cause poor cognitive function, shortness of breath, and even heart and vascular disease.

Misaligned spine: The position of the spine is impacted with bad posture. Complications like muscle spasm and spinal misalignment are very common in people who constantly have a bad body posture and it can also induce an injury.

A curvature of the spine: You have a few essential spinal curves that are in your upper-to-mid-back, lower back, and neck. With a prolonged bad posture that natural curve of the spine gets disturbed which can have multiple health complications. Above-mentioned problems arise due to bad posture; so, make sure to emphasise on good posture.

How can people returning to office get used to furniture?
There are some simple things you can ensure to make your office furniture is suitable for your back’s health:

Sit straight while working on your laptop and ensure your chair has a back rest.
Ensure your feet are resting on the ground and not hanging in the air, adjust the height of your chair accordingly.
Always keep your wrist straight and use your arms, elbow and shoulder for movement.
Adjust your mouse, laptop screens in a manner that you don’t have to bend or slouch to reach them.
Do not cross your leg while sitting on the chair , as you tend to slouch more in that posture.
Ensure that your chair is pulled into your table, as that automatically compels you to sit straight.

Any basic exercises to do while in office to avoid strained muscles?
Victory V: This stretch works wonders when it comes to releasing stress and relaxing the muscles. One can stay seated or stand up while doing this stretch; all you have to do is raise your hands over your head, creating a V sign. Then stretch your body in a way that you are touching the ceiling above you. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and then release slowly.

Master clenches: The easiest way of maintaining mobility in the muscles and also toning them, this exercise is easy yet impactful. Whether you are sitting or standing, tighten your grip, hold it for five seconds and release slowly. Repeat this for 10-15 times in a day.

Chair dips: Move towards the front of the chair in a way that your arm is on the edge of your chair. Put your hands on the arm rest of the chair for support and dip your lower body off the chair. Repeat this at least five times and it helps align the spinal curve.

Wall sits: Set your back on the wall and sit as if you are sitting on a chair while balancing your body in that position. Bend your knees with thigh parallel to each other and slide up and down against the wall. This helps create endurance by building muscle strength.

Do balms and sprays help, and should they be used indiscriminately?
Balms and sprays can help relieve pain temporarily, but for complete care, proper medication and exercise guided by the doctor is advised.

Additionally, work from home and the associated confinement to one place for a very long time has also led to limited exposure to the sun. This in turn has aggravated the problem of vitamin D deficiency, causing pain in the bones and fatigue that can in the long run cause complications like osteoporosis.

Dr Yash Gulati is senior consultant, orthopaedics, joint replacement & spine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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