How to ensure your spine thanks you after a hard day at the office

This was taken from the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association – ‘Media Release’

Media Release

Date: 16th October 2011


New Zealanders are urged to stand up straight for World Spine Day (16th October) and save their backs, as new research shows that most office workers sit at their desks for much longer than health guidelines recommend.

According to the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association, long uninterrupted sedentary periods are risk factors for poor health. Citing a new report into workplace sedentary behaviour [1] Dr Hayden Thomas, chiropractor and spokesperson for the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association explains that the study looked at the sitting behaviour of office workers and adherence to three different recommendations (maximum length of a sitting event of: 20 min; 30 min; 55 min).

Dr Thomas says: `No participants met the 20 or 30 min recommendations on every working day and only eight per cent of participants met the 55 min recommendation. Emerging evidence suggests prolonged sitting has negative health effects and adverse sitting behaviour is prevalent in the office. We want to say to New Zealanders whether they are at a desk or not, remember to take a break and straighten up.’

He points out: `Good posture means there is musculoskeletal balance. This balance helps to protect the joints in the spine and surrounding tissues from excessive loads, tension or stress. It also guards against injury and possible deformity. Good posture is a great ‘tool’ to possess to help prevent pain and ensure optimum function.‘

The NZCA advises a number of posture improvement initiatives:

1) Get up, walk tall and stretch often.

2) Exercise regularly and keep the abdominal muscles strong to help support the spine. An active spine is a healthy spine. The Straighten Up New Zealand daily posture exercises are a simple way to start (visit

3) Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes. Choose shoes that offer good foot support and comfort.

4) Bags, backpacks, briefcases - Carry only the items that are required for each day and avoid a heavy tote bag worn over one shoulder.

5) Working at a desk – Choose office furniture that is ergonomically designed and that fits your body.

6) Sit with your back against the back of the chair with knees at hip level. Consider using a footrest. A small pillow or rolled towel placed at the lower back can offer needed support.

7) The workstation or desk should be at elbow height. Adjust chair height to meet this need. Sit with your shoulders straight and parallel to the hips. Don’t slouch forward to view work or the computer monitor.

8) Tilt the monitor so the centre of the screen is at eye level for easy viewing.

9) Don’t cradle the phone between your head and shoulder. Use the speakerphone, a headset or hold the phone in your hand.

10) A good mattress can help keep your spine aligned and muscles relaxed during sleep.

11) Try not to sleep on your stomach. Sleep on your side or back.

12) Oversize pillows do not benefit your spine. Use a pillow that allows your head to align with the rest of your body.

Dr Thomas adds: `Of course there are hundreds of other suggestions to help establish a lifestyle supporting good posture. Your chiropractor can give you many personalised tips to help you gain the benefits good posture offers.’

For further information on better posture visit


[1] Ergonomics, Volume, Issue 6, 2011; Sitting patterns at work: objective measurement of adherence to current recommendations; Cormac G. Ryana*, Philippa M. Dalla, Malcolm H. Granata & P. Margaret Granta pages 531-538 Available online: 17 Jun 2011

Jesse Cleave