How to improve posture while sitting at a desk

From my experience, posture is more important than people give it credit for.

Poor posture can lead to headaches, back and neck pain, and other bodily pains for perceived short-term comfort.

This is especially true for those living a more sedentary lifestyle due to their line of work from writing to computer design.

Any line of work with prolonged time behind a desk, but these pains can be avoided with this guide for better posture while sitting.

Understanding Neutral Posture

Understanding neutral posture

Your whole body depends on your posture as the very position of your body guides your blood flow and, in turn, affects your health.

The Importance of Neutral Posture

Maintaining a neutral posture leads to your body regaining its good posture, leading to more productivity and happier living.

Chronic pain in your body and diseases are hallmarks of unhealthy and stiff living as constant movement pumps nutrients and blood through your body.

Elements of Neutral Posture

From my observation, Bad posture not only leads to poor bodily health but also leads to lower productivity and is a sign of low self-esteem.

Elements of Neutral posture can be summed up as the following to prevent slouching;

  • Keep your computer monitor at eye level so your head doesn’t tilt
  • Pull your shoulders back and keep your back flat against the chair
  • Rest your feet flat on the ground—no crossing ankles or legs
  • Use a lumbar support tool to help keep your upper back in a straight position

Healthiest Position To Sit In

When considering a healthy seating position, contemplate a posture that enhances comfort, supports your spine's natural curve, and minimizes strain on the neck, shoulders, hips, and lower back.

The most effective approach is sitting in an upright posture, holding the spine's innate 'S' shape, feet flat against the ground, and the back fully supported by the chair.

Such a position, according to research, has been associated with diminished musculoskeletal stress, fostering enhanced well-being and productivity.

Sitting Positions That Are Bad For Spine

Beware of positions that are detrimental to your spine health, which include slouching and slumping. Such postures implement undue tension on your spine and lumbar discs. A practical exercise is to sit comfortably, direct your head forward, close your eyes and then slowly reopen them.

Your gaze ought to target your computer screen—an approach that eases spinal strain. Additional information regarding the negative effects of bad sitting posture can help you avoid these mistakes.

Uncomfortable Sitting Positions

Sitting positions that distort the spine's natural curvature can lead to discomfort and back pain. The issue of poor posture has been extensively discussed by experts, such as Dr. Kaliq Chang, a specialist at the Atlantic Spine Center.

They highlight how positions that throw off your spine's alignment can culminate in discomfort or pain, leading to decreased productivity and well-being. Therefore, maintaining correct positions becomes essential.

How to Improve Posture While Sitting at Desk

Better sitting practices are the way to achieve the best posture for comfort as long as you do them consistently.

Fixing your sitting habits and having the proper ergonomic sitting position behind a desk can do wonders for your lower back and spine.

Adjust Your Chair and Desk

Many adults have complained of lower back pain to me, so I recommend you sit on your butt against the back of the seat.

All the while keeping a small crushing along the hollow area of your lower spine where you would naturally sway as a supplement to lumbar support.

Switching up seating for a more ergonomic chair with enough lumbar support to help support your back, where most of the tension is held.

The chair must have the following as it keeps you in an ergonomic position;

  • Keeps your body at an upright neutral position
  • A balanced backrest
  • Adequate seat height,
  • Keep your legs and knees levelled and spaced.
  • Support for your hips and pelvis
  • Enough floor room

The chair will help promote and support a more aligned back as you do proper sitting posture after long periods.

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Mind Your Screen Height

Neck pain and other cervicogenic headaches occur due to prolonged hours staring at screens, either too high or low.

Hence we recommend that you adjust your laptop or desktop computer monitor to be at a natural eye level with you for a more comfortable experience.

While using your desktop computer, my studies have found that keeping your elbows at 90 degrees is useful while typing.

This advice also applies to the adjustable arms on your furniture as you recline your shoulders and position your feet on the floor.

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Proper Keyboard and Mouse Positioning

Other accessories, like your computer keyboard and mouse, must align with your eyesight and body.

Ensure you’re not straining your neck, shoulders, and back when using your devices. Also, make sure to align your hips to your head.

Correct posture correction is from your legs being able to balance each other.

This distribution should have no side getting more weight than the other, all the way to the hips and pelvis.

Use a Lumbar Roll for Support

Your back should have a small curve in the lower back, which is where your lordotic curve is, as it juts out of the pelvis.

Without support, your back tends to curve in the opposite direction, known as kyphosis (hunchback).

This leaves your lower back vulnerable to sprains, strains, and disc herniation.

A rolled-up towel, or a small pillow, is a simple solution that can provide support to let the lower back relax.

Keep Your Feet Flat on the Ground

Good posture begins with the feet, the foundation of body care, as it helps develop a straight spine with your feet flat on the ground floor.

This weight distribution leads you to unconsciously get good posture as you straighten up instinctually as you sit.

"Maintaining good posture helps promote better blood circulation at your desk while on a footstool".

On the other hand, poor foot positions can lead to decreased productivity.

We recommend that you avoid propping your legs up on anything that results in tightened hamstrings, causing irritated sciatic nerves and a stiff spine.

We have found that should you ignore this, the body feels more back and shoulder pain as you sit on your office chair due to your weight.

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The Impact of Prolonged Sitting on Posture

Upper back pain, stiffness, and other health issues are among the most common issues with back pain.

However, there are not only issues for you to understand the effects of bad posture on your health.

Prolonged sitting is one of the many causes of tiredness while sitting at a desk, but there are ways to treat this concern.

Musculoskeletal Risks

People naturally end up slouching, which can cause back pain and shoulder aches from your bad posture.

My experience suggests that you should roll your shoulders down and back more to provide back support as your upper body feels engaged.

For chronic back pain, in addition to reaching out to a doctor, some of the following interventions might be worth exploring:

  • Physical therapy to improve mobility and function
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic treatments
  • Acupuncture
  • Mindfulness training

And make sure to see a doctor if your back pain is happening with the following symptoms:

  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs
  • Sharp, persistent pain, especially if it worsens at night
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Throbbing in the abdomen
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

Tips to Avoid Sitting for Too Long

I and others have found having your chin tucked back to your neck while staring at your screen and computer equipment is more comfortable.

If you jut your chin out unconsciously, this action causes pain to your cervical spine, while the inverse can have one side relax.

One desk option that’s growing in popularity is the “sit-stand” desk—an adjustable desk that switches from sitting to standing easily.

We found that giving workers a sit-stand desk reduced their daily sitting time by over an hour.

This decreased upper back and neck pain by 54% from our standing desk vs. sitting desk debate while improving mood states.

Amongst these tips, the best one from experience remains; "avoid leaning in the same position on one side for long".

Time Duration for Maintaining Good Posture

While maintaining good posture is crucial, continuous sitting isn't advisable either. Experts advocate standing, stretching, and walking around for a few minutes every 30-40 minutes.

This break not only improves circulation but also helps you to reset posture when returning to your workstation. Consider investing in an adjustable desk or a desk converter to make transitioning between sitting and standing simpler.

Exercises and Techniques to Strengthen Posture at the Desk

Exercises and techniques to maintain good posture

These simple actions can help you align your spine during your work day. You can limber your body as you incorporate exercises for better posture while behind a desk.

Good posture habits help keep your head in position and relax more efficiently.

Desk Stretches

These desk stretches can be done by anyone and without much prior skill to do well besides consistency;

The standing forward fold is a deep stretch to the hamstrings, releasing tension from the weight of your head while maintaining a straight back.

Posture Strengthening Exercises

There are many ways for you to stretch your muscles and support your shoulders that are quite easy to follow.

The child's pose can be a great stretch to lengthen your spine and relieve back tension.

Breathing Techniques

The Cat-Cow is a spinal awareness stretch that releases tension along your whole spine while inhaling as you arch your back and pelvis.

The Role of Ergonomics in Office Settings

The first place you need to prevent chronic pain in your body is where you work or spend so much time in a seated position.

Thus, it would help to practise ergonomics and other simple exercises to shape your workspace and work habits to care for your health.

Consider the following principles and apply them to your daily life for better posture.

Implementing Ergonomic Principles

Always remember the importance of proper ergonomics to maintain your overall health even when sitting.

The health of your whole body, from your head to your arms to your knees, while doing tasks.

You should be able to do the following anywhere you go;

  • Encourage a full range of motion
  • Your important items within reach of your arms
  • Adequate room for your legs and feet to stretch
  • Discourage slouching of any kind.

The Benefits of Ergonomic Furniture and Tools

Benefits of ergonomic office furniture and tools

Ergonomic products can be a great investment in your workspace.

There are many benefits to keeping ergonomic and adjustable furniture and tools around, such as the following;

  • Keeps your bones and joints in proper alignment
  • Reduces abnormal damage to the joints
  • Reduces stress on the ligaments
  • Prevents abnormal spinal positions and muscle fatigue
  • Prevents any strains, sprains, and other injuries
  • Improves appearance and self-esteem
  • Keep muscle tone

Interpreting Ergonomic Seating

What does ergonomic seating mean? Fundamentally, ergonomic chairs adopt the natural 'S' curvature of our spines: a primary factor in dissuading slouching and mitigating pressure on pelvis and spine alike.

The unique advantage of these chairs lies in their adjustable backrests, engineered to fit the spine's curvature like a glove. Ergonomic seating, however, isn't just for office work.

For instance, even setting up an ergonomic environment while playing at your gaming desk is crucial to maintain your physical health in the long run.

Ergonomic Seating Standards

There are certain standards when it comes to ergonomic seating. The chair should promote the spine's natural curvature, offering sufficient lumbar backing.

Additionally, it should have a comfortable seat that lets your feet rest flat on the floor/footrest. If there are armrests, they should be soft, allowing your shoulders to unwind and your elbows to stay close to your body.

Characteristics of an Ergonomic Chair

For a chair to qualify as ergonomic, it should have a seat pan with a descending front edge or "waterfall" design. This structure prevents pressure build-up behind the knees, distributing the user's weight evenly. This kind of body-conscious design philosophy also applies to the shape and layout of desks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although you may know how to maintain a proper sitting posture, other factors must be considered, and here are tips to help you out.

Why Is It Important to Have Good Posture While Sitting at a Desk?

Better posture encourages your body's function to keep going, resulting in better metabolism, more nutrient flow, and more hemodynamics.

Sitting behind a monitor for long periods will just land you with annoying sciatica, from my experience, at the very least.

“Sitting disease” is a term recently coined as new research suggests that sitting for long periods of time without adequate movement.

Spine alignment can lead to several long-term health conditions, including musculoskeletal disorders.

Several studies have examined office worker habits over the years, and many have found strong correlations between sitting at a desk and chronic back pain.

What Are the Common Causes of Poor Posture?

Our research has found that, regardless of how much exercise your body goes through, being sedentary would lead to disease and back pain.

The most common causes of poor posture and aches in your skeleton and muscles goes as follows;

  • Slouching from staying in a seated position for too long leads to a misaligned spine.
  • Poor workstation set-ups can lead to you straining your neck for computers, not at eye-level
  • Leg misalignment from bad habits such as crossing your ankle, leg, or knees leads to hip misalignment.
  • Lack of movement can restrict your blood and nutrient flow into your spine.
  • Prolonged sitting can cause wear and tear on your spinal discs
  • Not keeping your feet flat on the floor to realign your spine

How Can I Check if I Have Proper Sitting Posture at My Desk?

The best way for you to be able to check if your body has good posture still without the use of gadgets would be mindfulness.

Mindfulness is finding connections gained with your body and thus would be able to detect any stiffness amongst your muscles early.

Mindfulness can be done when you adjust your posture behind the desk to give evenly distributed focus on your body from your spine to your knees.

Mindfulness apps can act as another reminder app to give yourself time to relieve your shoulders and stand.

Scheduling time keeps you accountable and helps prevent further back pain from sitting too much from my talks with others.

Is It Better To Sit Higher Or Lower At A Desk?

When considering seating height at your desk, a higher sitting position takes precedence. Optimum desk ergonomics involves a higher than lower sitting position as it helps mitigate strains on your neck, shoulder, and back.

Higher positioning can also contribute to reducing eye and upper back strain, typically caused by prolonged downward gazing at a workstation.

What Is The Anatomically Correct Way To Sit?

Adopting a beneficial seated position plays a crucial role in promoting overall physical wellness. Proper positioning involves having your feet resting flat on the ground or on an under-table footrest.
Ensure your legs are not crossed while sitting. To avoid unnecessary pressure on your hips, maintain a minimal gap between the chair seat and your knees, which should align horizontally with your hips or be lower.

Are There Any Tools or Gadgets That Can Help Me Maintain Good Posture?

There are many reminder apps to set a time for you to adjust yourself and warn you if your posture is not balanced.

A quality chair with a lot of adjustment for moving around or even a balance ball as either piece of furniture can help give you the space to move your muscles.

Another tool to consider is wearable posture correctors that correct poor posture as they correct your spine, hips, pelvis, and back straight.

The product is a wearable vest that can act as an unconscious corrector, but it can feel bulky and unnatural, from my experience.

All the while saving you extra cash from seeing expensive centres such as the Mayo Clinic for your health issues.

How Can I Remind Myself to Maintain Proper Posture During the Workday?

You should always set yourself reminders to exercise every few hours to loosen your body and break from sitting down.

Good habits and routines take commitment for your body's health, and there will be many obstacles in your way.

Our research suggests that for every 30 minutes of work, you go through a simple exercise behind the desk for five minutes.

You can monitor your work-life balance with a simple watch or even humble alarms for your phone.

All of this is to gain mindfulness in being more in sync with your body, hips, and from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes.

Even just standing every few hours, as we are not made to sit for hours, you can get your joints and skeletal muscles more at ease as they fire through your body.

Is Seiza Style the Healthiest Sitting Position?

Practiced for ages in Japan, seiza-style sitting gives your back a break, promoting spinal alignment. In the seiza position, you sit with legs folded underneath and the tops of feet making contact with the floor. It helps preserve natural back curvature, reducing the risk of disc compression and resulting back pain.


Although naturally, people slouch for comfort, every instance is detrimental to your long-term health.

Slouch blocks off blood and nutrients from the rest of your body, leading to stiffness of your muscles from your neck to even your knees due to a bad position.

Even in this time of working from home behind a desk, you still need to keep your posture and exercise consistently for your body's health.

Good spinal posture can align your body in itself to keep you productive and even breathing right to keep your health in top shape for life.

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