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How To Survive Your Desk.


Sitting at a desk all day long as too many of us do is the exact opposite of a natural environment for your body. We are designed to walk around all day looking for food, occasionally lifting heavy things and occasionally running like hell, either after an animal or away from one, yet there we sit all day long like a mushroom. Small wonder that there are so many people suffering form neck and mid back pain reporting to our offices all the time. The best way to maintain your health and sanity while at the unavoidable desk job is to trick your body into thinking it is doing what it is designed to do…. A workout at the end of the day helps but if you run your system incorrectly all day long this just isn’t enough. The best things to do are …..


  • Sit up straight!  The best way to do this is not to make it so much of an effort. You should be balanced based upon the tilt of your chair. Look up “kneeling chairs (which are great by the way) in Google images to see any number of people sitting correctly, with the ear over the shoulder and the shoulder over the hip. These emulate standing posture with little or no effort and will keep you from slumping all day long. You can do the same thing with a pillow if you sit on it just right… the trick is the tilt/angle of the pelvis. Nothing should be forced but rather everything should be balanced and relaxed.
  • Fire whatever muscles are stretched out throughout the day…. forcefully. Stretching doesn’t do the same thing. If you held the phone to your right ear for 5 hours you would go insane. You would switch to the left. Slumping forward is just like this. You should fire the muscles that pull you back into extension. The first part of Sun Salutation or Cobra for you yogis out there ought to do it (look em up! Sun Salutation and Cobra pose images are all over the net) , the important thing is to FIRE the muscles that are weakened and stretched at the desk. Once a day is = almost useless. Once and hour keeps your spinal muscles and nervous system thinking its doing something much more mechanically normal all day long…… Back and forth… Back and forth…. just like if you were a human being walking around. Not slumped over like the poor little mushroom all day.
  • Arrange your desk to emulate your body posture if you were meeting someone. The keyboard goes where your hand would be while shaking a friend’s hand… in front, but not too far in front, with the shoulder not rounded forward, the mouse just a few inches to the right of that. The center of your screen should be about 20 inches in front of your nose, where your friends nose would be height-wise. Go shake someones hand who is the same height as you for example. Make your desk reflect this “hi how are you” position when you sit down. Move the keyboard and mouse to you. Don’t go to them…. Easy! If your desk is to high or low and the chair won’t adjust to this neutral position for your particular body, somethings got to change.
  • Look far away about every hour for a few minutes to relax the muscles of your lens/eye. When you focus up close (…who here is over 40 like me?) the lens muscles are going hard, and like any other muscles they need a minute to relax. If you’re in a cube, stand up when you do your extension exercises look at least 20 feet away for a bit or just close your eyes (as long as your boss isn’t staring at you). Nobody expects that they could hold something heavy for long without putting it down but people will stare at a screen for hours and then call me about a tension headache that they could have avoided. I’m happy to help but I am equally happy not to see people suffer unavoidably in the first place.


Remember.  What is average and accepted is not what is  necessarily  correct. The desk is an artificial environment and you have to do things to push it towards what your body is designed for. If you take a few minutes each day in order that you don’t develop a problem in the first place, you will be more productive, happier, healthier and more able to survive the desk and enjoy your free time at the end of the day… which is the real point after all, isn’t it?


Peter W. McManus, D.C.


pic for website  A bit about me… I am a Graduate of Palmer Chiropractic College (Iowa 1995) and am now in practice in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I have trained in neurology, sports injury, gait analysis, rehabilitation, treatment of extremities, standards of practice, whiplash injuries and various other topics since I have been in practice. I have worked closely with university health clinics and hospital rehabilitation departments in Boston and have lectured to state regulatory agencies as an expert in standards of practice and have been a teaching participant in the orthopedics rotation of family practice medical doctors. I specialize in traditional treatment methodologies with contemporary cutting edge applications. I am adamant that a combination of rehabilitation and a proper short care plan of chiropractic treatment is the best approach for almost any appropriate musculo-skeletal condition and I am adamantly opposed to high frequency, ongoing care.  Visit www.drpetermcmanus.com or ww.facebook.com/PeterWilliamMcManusDc for more information or to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and to stay plugged in with its healthy tips and current relevant research links.

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