Debunking Posture Myths: A Scientific Perspective on Office Ergonomics

Debunking Posture Myths: A Scientific Perspective on Office Ergonomics

In the quest for the elusive "good" posture, many of us have received advice from various sources, urging us to sit up straight, pull our shoulders back, and work diligently. Whether from parents, bosses, or well-intentioned physiotherapists, the emphasis on maintaining a specific posture in the workplace is common. But does it truly prevent injuries, and is there a universally agreed-upon definition of "good" posture?

What Does the Science Say?

A comprehensive study reviewing research papers on office ergonomics spanning 2000-2015 found that workplace ergonomic changes had an insignificant impact on pain prevalence, intensity, sick leave reduction, and functional limitations related to work injuries (Stock et al., 2017). As for posture, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Remaining in a static position for extended periods is more likely to lead to discomfort and pain. The human body is designed for movement, and the key to reducing postural-related pain or injury lies in staying mobile. In essence, good posture is the one that feels comfortable until it doesn't, signaling the need for a change.

Preventing/Reducing Workplace Injuries:

Evidence from the aforementioned study suggests that taking short, regular breaks (30 seconds to 5 minutes every 20-40 minutes) is more effective than traditional break schedules in various work settings, from agriculture to office work.

A 2018 study by Shariat et al. compared a stretching exercise program to ergonomic modifications in office workers treating neck, shoulder, and lower back pain. The results favored the stretching program as more effective, emphasizing its use as a long-term treatment over sole reliance on office modifications.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dynamic Posturing: Good posture is a fluid concept, adapting to your comfort level at any given moment.
  • Regular Breaks: Incorporate short breaks every 20-40 minutes to change positions and prevent discomfort.
  • Movement Matters: If your work involves prolonged sitting, intersperse it with standing, walking, and stretching. Conversely, if your work is physically demanding, take moments to rest and breathe.
  • Stretching vs. Ergonomics: Stretching exercises prove more effective than altering desk arrangements in addressing neck and back pain.

In conclusion, the scientific evidence challenges the conventional wisdom surrounding office ergonomics and rigid posture standards. Embrace the idea that movement, regular breaks, and targeted stretching are pivotal in promoting a healthy and pain-free workplace experience.

Andrew Huynh

Hi everyone, I’m Andrew and I head ESPR Therapy & Training. I’m passionate about helping people discover their potential and achieving their goals. For me, that means building resilience and strength (both physical and mental) in you to overcome whatever obstacles you’re facing. I completed my Bachelors in physiotherapy at the University of Sydney in 2017 which has taken me to both public and private sectors. A key highlight of my career is working within an elite NPL 1 soccer team which involved modifying training loads and integrating rehab programs to help athletes recover and return to the field ASAP. Over the years, I developed an interest in the area of strength and conditioning which led me to complete an internship at one of Sydney’s most renowned S&C gyms - Ethos Performance. From this, I learnt how to program training blocks so that athletes can gain the specific movement qualities that will enhance their sporting performance. I have also completed further study & training in pain science and dry needling which allowed me to understand and minimise patients symptoms. Outside of work, I train regularly in MMA and spoil my 2 beautiful pupperinos - Nala and Kira - to bush walks and hikes. If you have an injury or training goals, I’ve got your back!