If your freelance work involves long periods of time sitting in front of a computer, then your lower back is under serious pressure and if you’re not already suffering from back pain, the bad news is – I see it in your future.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to reduce the damage.
Sit in the Right Place
Sit as close as possible to your desk, and adjust the height of the seat so that your elbows are at a 90° angle to your desktop and your computer monitor is at eye level (you may need to adjust the monitor height to achieve this).
Keep the area under your desk clear so that you have room to stretch your legs and you’re not forced to twist or sit at an angle.
Sit In the Right Way
It’s far too easy to slouch. You may start your work session sitting up nice and straight, with your back firmly against the back of your chair, but if someone were to take a photo of you thirty minutes later, what would you see?
Your knees should be level or slightly higher with your hips, and your lumbar region should be supported, so if necessary, find the right sized cushion to sit in the curve at the small of your back. Don’t lean forward or crane your neck.
If you need to, set a timer to remind yourself to check your posture.
Sit on the Right Chair
Never buy an office chair without trying it out, and consider getting an ergonomic chair. You need a chair that supports your spine and has a seat of the correct depth, so that your feet can rest comfortably on the floor, your back meets the back of the chair, and the seat doesn’t dig in behind your knees (but isn’t so shallow that it doesn’t support most of your upper thigh – around three inches between the front edge of your seat and your calf is ideal).
If your office chair has armrests, ensure they’re adjustable or that they are the right height to support a 90° elbow angle and just slightly raise your arms at the shoulders.
Take a Break from All That Sitting
The bottom line is, you shouldn’t spend prolonged periods sitting down – without regularly getting up and doing something else, just for a little while. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, don’t be tempted to stay there and check your email or browse social media – get up, walk around, do an active chore or walk to the kitchen to get yourself a drink. You could also try using a standing desk and alternating this with sitting at a normal desk – or, if it suits you, using a standing desk full time.
It’s not just about back health; research has proved that it’s a health risk in itself, regardless of how much or how little exercise we do, and that sitting for long periods without a break for activity can cause irreversible damage.
And while you’re sitting, you don’t have to avoid exercise entirely, either – do some stretches. Join your hands behind you and gently lift your arms as you push them back, feeling the stretch across your shoulders and chest. Take some deep breaths and gently rotate your neck too. Then stretch your legs out, alternately pointing and lifting your toes.
Feeling better? Right, back to it… until your next break time.