How Sitting at a Desk All Day Affects Your Neck and Back


Desk Posture


The Problem

Our bodies are designed for movement. However, the average adult spends about ten hours each day sitting. It’s very hard to counteract that much inactivity with a one-hour workout each day.

Most of us don’t have the time or desire to work out after a long day in the office, leaving our bodies sedentary entirely too often. This not only affects our molecular and cellular health; but takes its toll on our postural, skeletal, and muscular systems in the process.


The Reason

Sitting stresses our back and neck muscles, along with the discs in our spine. The longer we sit, the lazier our posture becomes throughout the day. Spending day after day sitting at a desk can expedite the development of spinal issues. This is due to strained muscles in the neck and shoulders, along with excessive wear and tear on our vertebrae.


If we spend hours in front of a computer or tilting our head to cradle a telephone, we’re only compounding the problem with a forward-hunched lean as we tilt our neck and head forward to the computer screen or phone.

The discs in our neck and back are designed to contract and expand during movement. This allows much-needed blood and nutrient absorption. Sitting compresses these discs, which aggravates them and encourages loss of flexibility or hernia development.


Neck muscle pain develops from strain on our Scalene muscles (rotate the neck), Suboccipital muscles (rotate the head), Pectoralis Minor muscles (chest movement), Subscapularis muscles (shoulder movement), and Levator Scapulae muscles (neck support).  As soreness sets in, muscles tense and contract.

Over time, the muscles become fatigued and increasingly more painful. This fatigue can trigger headaches, migraines, muscle spasms, and neck/back pain.  Maintaining proper posture is key in preventing stiffness, soreness, and limited mobility.


Changes To Make


A few preventive actions and changes of habits can greatly decrease the likelihood we’ll experience neck and back fatigue:


Adjust the desk – Get Rid of Desk Posture

If our desk is too low or high, we tend to compensate by adjusting our posture. This ‘desk posture’ is what causes problems. If a desk is too high, we’ll shrug our shoulders to elevate our wrists and hands to the desk level. If the desk is too low, we’ll flex our trunk and extend our neck more forward.


Our work surface should allow for a natural feel when typing on a keyboard. If it doesn’t, add a keyboard tray to the underside of the desk. The computer monitor should be at least 20 inches from us, reducing eye strain and our desire to lean forward when we can’t adequately see the monitor.  If possible, purchase a stand-up desk or an adjustable desk that allows for multiple work positions throughout your day. Varying positions of mixing, sitting, and standing is best.


Adjust the chair

Our office chairs should offer a full back, reaching up to at least shoulder-height. The arms of the chair should support the natural position of when our arms are at our sides.


Stand Up

Stand as much as possible while working or during our leisure time. Set an alarm as a reminder to get up every thirty minutes. Take a moment to stand up, stretch, and move around.


Get Moving

Walk as much as possible throughout our day. Aim for 10,000-12,000 steps each day. Park the car further out. Walk during the lunch break. Take an evening stroll with the family. Have regular massage sessions to encourage blood flow and movement throughout the muscles.


The whole idea is to keep ourselves moving. Get rid of the desk posture! This will keep our muscles, joints, and ligaments healthy and mobile. Our bodies are designed for movement. Get out and get going!



Written by: Gunnar Thelander

Gunnar leads Massage Kneads & Wellness as CEO. Gunnar's educational background entails a BS in Exercise & Sports Science from Texas State University, and an MA and Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University in Organizational Leadership. He has been a teacher and coach for all individuals in living a healthy, balanced lifestyle to maximize your life in every area. He is currently OSHA certified to speak in areas of Health and Safety in the Workplace, Ergonomics, and a trainer in First Aid/CPR.

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