Thanks to social distancing, I’ve turned my living room into an MTV Cribs-worthy work-from-home setup. But I’ll be the first to admit my constant computer use isn’t doing my neck any favors. It might have to do with my daily routine of migrating from the bed to the desk to the couch, but regardless, I wanted answers about how it’s affecting my body. Even better, what will happen if I stop sitting at a desk all day? I turned to Dr. Sebastian Kverneland (a Los Angeles-based chiropractor) to find out.
Is sitting at a desk bad for my body?
Yes, but I had no idea how harmful it could be. According to Dr. Kverneland, sitting at a desk puts a lot of pressure on your neck, which (in turn) has to compensate for the added stress. Of course, this isn’t only limited to computer use—but phones, too.
“In general, being in any position all day is bad for your posture. However, sitting is especially impactful,” he explains. “While sitting in unergonomic spaces (as many are in these days) we all have a tendency to lean our head forward, especially while on our phones. The more forward your head sits, the more stress is placed on your neck. For every inch that your head protrudes forward from its normal alignment, you add up to an extra ten pounds of force on your neck.” Yikes.
What will happen to my body if I stop sitting at a desk?
Dr. Kverneland says that if you stop sitting at a desk entirely, you will drastically improve your alignment (and if you’re already doing this now that you’re no longer stuck in an office, go you!). Even small breaks can help reduce the long-term effects of bad posture. This includes the body “depositing thick connective tissue (and fat tissue) to reinforce the area” and “stiffening the joints of the lower cervical spine in a flexed position.” Basically, he’s referring to the neck getting stiffer over time, due to a buildup of excess tissue.
What if I must sit at a desk?
If you can’t avoid sitting at a desk, Dr. Kverneland recommends making a conscious effort to adjust your posture. “My main advice [is to] take breaks from sitting by scheduling standing and walking breaks (or walk when on phone calls), stretch the neck and back daily, sit properly when on your computer and make sure your gaze looks straight ahead (and not down) when looking at your computer or phone,” he says. This includes an upright posture and supportive backrest, where the head can comfortably sit without straining the neck.
Your neck will thank you later.