How Changing my Posture Transformed my Life

First, I’d like ot start by saying that in recent years, my general fitness has decreased, partially due to this blog. Yes, you read that right. Time in front of your computer, like all things, isn’t beneficial when done in excess. Fortunately, because of a few changes I made a few months ago, I’ve started feeling better again.

Now, before anyone starts blaming blogging, let me say this: The problem isn’t blogging specifically, it’s sitting in front of a screen all day long! Since running [GAS] has become more of a second job for me than a hobby, I really do invest a significant amount of time in the site. And yes, that’s apart from my 35-hour-a-week “regular” work schedule. So this mean that in a normal week, I spend around 50 to 60 hours staring at my monitor. It’s really started messing with my health.

For almost half of 2008, I experienced the following almost daily:

  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight gain

Since I was always tired and in pain, nearly everything I did felt like a hassle. So in September 2008, I decided that I just couldn’t take it anymore. That’s when I decided to go and see the doctor. Fortunately, this doctor was kind of different from the type I usually see. He didn’t prescribe me any pills, but instead told me I should go to see a physiotherapist. I accepted, and this changed my life.

On my first rendezvous, the physiotherapist took a look at my general posture. He brought me in front of a mirror, and showed me how my back, shoulders and neck were hunching. He had me feel a bump on my spinal cord at the bottom of my neck. He explained this was due to my time in front of the computer, and was common in office workers. He went on to say that If I didn’t correct my posture soon, the crooked discs in my spinal tap would eventually fuse together, and my hunching would likely become permanent.

The only thing I had to do to improve my situation was to learn how to sit properly and do a simple neck extension, which I do daily.

Normally, your neck should follow a straight vertical line with your back. If you notice your neck tilting forward, you may suffer from upper back and shoulder pain (a problem called “The Forward Head“), and this simple exercise may help you. Please note that I’m no specialist, and before doing this exercise, you should consult a physiotherapist or doctor in order to verify that it’s safe for you.

The stretch is named the dorsal glide. Here’s how you can do it.

  1. Stand up straight while looking in front of you
  2. Bring your shoulders a bit back while tucking your chin in
  3. Slowly extend your neck upward and hold 10 seconds
  4. Relax 10 seconds
  5. Repeat 10 times

If you feel pain during the exercise, it probably means you’re stretching your neck too much. The only thing you are supposed to feel is resistance, not pain.

Please note that people should ALWAYS keep their chin tucked in slightly. It is the healthy way to keep your head resting on top of your shoulders.

After showing me this exercise, my doctor prescribed me a simple, $20 orthopedic cushion to position on my lower back for when sitting down in front of the computer. This forces me to keep a straight position at all times and prevents me from reclining completely on the back of my chair, which you should never do.

The result? Within a week, I had no more headaches, back pain or general fatigue. I know it may sound extreme, but this completely changed my life. I’m more patient with my kids and have more than enough energy to keep feeling good all day long. Two months ago, my wife and I bought a Stairmaster, and it motivated me to get active again. I’ve since lost 15 pounds, most of what I gained since I started blogging.

If someone would have told me last year that I could eliminate health problems by addressing my posture, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. But the proof is in the pudding. I feel good again.

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25 Responses to How Changing my Posture Transformed my Life

  1. I think this is exactly what I needed to read. I have the same issues and the chair I use now makes me hunch way to forward. Thanks for the excellent post!!

    • No problem Eric :) It’s really strange how better I feel right now compared to a few months ago.. It’s like the energy flows better inside me.. It’s something that is really hard to understand if you’ve been feeling that way for a while…

  2. I’ve always had bad posture, and like you, I spend a LOT of time sitting in front of a computer. I’m going to try reminding myself to do some stretching when I get up to go to the restroom, break room, etc.

    I could probably benefit from one of those posture pillows, too.

  3. I think this is exactly what I needed to read. I have the same issues and the chair I use now makes me hunch way to forward. Thanks for the excellent post!!

    • No problem Eric :) It's really strange how better I feel right now compared to a few months ago.. It's like the energy flows better inside me.. It's something that is really hard to understand if you've been feeling that way for a while…

  4. I've always had bad posture, and like you, I spend a LOT of time sitting in front of a computer. I'm going to try reminding myself to do some stretching when I get up to go to the restroom, break room, etc.

    I could probably benefit from one of those posture pillows, too.

  5. I want a laptop with a retractable screen. It’d be great if the screen could glide upward so it’s at eye-level. The trouble with laptops is that if the keyboard is at the right height, you need to lean down to see the screen. If the screen is at the right height, you have to hunch your shoulders up to reach the keyboard.

    The fact that I’ve got astigmatism makes this worse, because if I’m not looking straight through the middle of my glasses, text-on-a-screen becomes hard to see (the red, blue, and green parts of the pixels sort of separate…the text is like if you look without 3D glasses at something that requires them). I have trouble reading text near the bottom of my laptop screen for that reason, unless I lean down really far. I’d like everything to just be displayed only in the top half of my screen, really…

    Hey Kiltak, got a corset in your future? They’re great for posture ;)

    • If you’re like me, the laptop spends most of its time right on my desk. So I got a platform to elevate the laptop, and bought a wireless external keyboard and mouse. Problem solved, except for those rare instances when I take my show on the road.

  6. I want a laptop with a retractable screen. It'd be great if the screen could glide upward so it's at eye-level. The trouble with laptops is that if the keyboard is at the right height, you need to lean down to see the screen. If the screen is at the right height, you have to hunch your shoulders up to reach the keyboard.

    The fact that I've got astigmatism makes this worse, because if I'm not looking straight through the middle of my glasses, text-on-a-screen becomes hard to see (the red, blue, and green parts of the pixels sort of separate…the text is like if you look without 3D glasses at something that requires them). I have trouble reading text near the bottom of my laptop screen for that reason, unless I lean down really far. I'd like everything to just be displayed only in the top half of my screen, really…

    Hey Kiltak, got a corset in your future? They're great for posture ;)

    • If you're like me, the laptop spends most of its time right on my desk. So I got a platform to elevate the laptop, and bought a wireless external keyboard and mouse. Problem solved, except for those rare instances when I take my show on the road.

  7. I’m very aware that my sore back and poor posture is due to sitting hunched at my desk at work for 8 hours and then coming home and sitting hunched with the laptop on my knee for another 4 or 5 but your post has reminded me to do something about it.
    I’ve been meaning to get a swiss ball for work, and the neck exercises sound like a really good idea.

    I went to a physio a few years ago about my posture and was given two exercises for my spine. One is whenever you’re standing around (like at the bus stop) to tilt you hips up a bit, really realigns your spine and makes your muscles work. The other was to put two tennis balls in a sock and tie the sock up and lie on it on the floor, with a tennis ball either side of your spine to stretch it.

  8. I'm very aware that my sore back and poor posture is due to sitting hunched at my desk at work for 8 hours and then coming home and sitting hunched with the laptop on my knee for another 4 or 5 but your post has reminded me to do something about it.

    I've been meaning to get a swiss ball for work, and the neck exercises sound like a really good idea.

    I went to a physio a few years ago about my posture and was given two exercises for my spine. One is whenever you're standing around (like at the bus stop) to tilt you hips up a bit, really realigns your spine and makes your muscles work. The other was to put two tennis balls in a sock and tie the sock up and lie on it on the floor, with a tennis ball either side of your spine to stretch it.

  9. Here’s my list:

    1. Posture is very important
    2. A keyboard tray will bring the shoulders down to a more relaxed position.
    3. A monitor arm (there are arms that hold up laptops, some are definately better than others!).
    4. A decent to good chair which you can adjust to your body, don’t adjust to the chair!
    5. A footrest really helps with lower back posture.
    6. move away from the computer every half hour for 5 minutes.
    7. look away from the monitor- every 15 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

    There’s more, but the important thing is to adapt your environment to your body, don’t force your body to adapt to your environment!

  10. Here's my list:

    1. Posture is very important

    2. A keyboard tray will bring the shoulders down to a more relaxed position.

    3. A monitor arm (there are arms that hold up laptops, some are definately better than others!).

    4. A decent to good chair which you can adjust to your body, don't adjust to the chair!

    5. A footrest really helps with lower back posture.

    6. move away from the computer every half hour for 5 minutes.

    7. look away from the monitor- every 15 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

    There's more, but the important thing is to adapt your environment to your body, don't force your body to adapt to your environment!

  11. Thank you for this – I stumbled across this on a late night search as I finally hit my breaking point.

    I work from home so I am in front of the computer all day and late into the nights.

    Even just doing one round of this stretch makes me feel better .. like you said you can't explain it.

    I look forward to seeing the benefits as time goes on.

    Cheers,

    Paul

  12. Thank you for this – I stumbled across this on a late night search as I finally hit my breaking point.

    I work from home so I am in front of the computer all day and late into the nights.

    Even just doing one round of this stretch makes me feel better .. like you said you can’t explain it.

    I look forward to seeing the benefits as time goes on.

    Cheers,

    Paul