On 20th April 2021 at 4PM, I am invited by the NZZ FutureHealth Forum in Basel (Switzerland) to give a webinar on the 3 Rules of Posture and their application to working from home. The conference is free and open to the public! Click here to get the link.
Abstract: Much has been said on working from home and its impact on your lower back or your neck… but one question remains: how much have you learned that will help you protect your body on the long run? In this session, Olivier Girard will tell you about a simple yet universal framework called the 3 Rules of Posture. It applies to working from home, to working from the office, to manual handling and any other daily life activity, whether at work or at home. Adults should know about it, as well as children. White collar workers as well as blue collar workers. Join us for a truly empowering session in which you’ll learn how to use and protect your body, right now as well as in the future… Be ready to look at posture and ergonomics from a brand new angle!
If you speak German, check my interview in the NZZ!
Homeworking ergonomics has brought a lot of media attention to Plein le Dos, my posture manual in French. This time, two of the recently published articles have been translated in English. Click on the images below to read them.
Many of you have to stay at home due to the coronavirus spreading worldwide. One of the challenges will be to protect your musculoskeletal health while working at home, where the working conditions are usually not as good as at work. You will find detailed advice and a video to DIY your ergonomic workstation and improve your posture on the free summary of my course on screen work ergonomics.
Below are pictures of the homeworking desk that I made for my wife, inside her Ikea closet. A ruler with double-sided tape blocks the laptop from sliding. If you do not have a proper office chair, you may consider using a lumbar support on a kitchen chair with a backrest.
A good sitting posture is essential, but you also need to monitor your daily screen time. Below are my recommendations for you and your children: if your child is 12 years old, she may spend daily up to 2hrs on a desktop OR up to 40 min on a laptop OR up to 20 min on a smartpohone. In other words, the green line indicates your "daily credit". Each minute on the desktop costs you 1, each one on the laptop costs you 3 and each one of the smartphone costs you 6...
Frequent breaks are also need, as shown below. The logic is the same: the smaller the screen, the younger the user, the more frequent breaks need to be.
Last but not least, you need to remain physically active! The two exercises below will help you preserve your musculoskeletal health: practice often, but slowly and always within your comfort zone. Simple cardio activities for home include the exercise bike that you once bought (and since then left in your basement), a jump rope for a few minutes several times a day, to jog on the spot, etc.
Video consultations are available for all those who want personal advice, wherever you live: feel free to contact me.
Sitting on a gym ball (aka. Swiss ball, exercise ball, yoga ball or posture ball) is in fashion, but is it really the healthy choice for your spine? Let's go back to the basics and see if the promise of relieving lower back pain is kept...
what is a good sitting posture?
When you sit well, your sitting posture fulfills these two conditions:
The first posture below (on the sitting bones and against the lumbar support) fulfills the requirements, but not the next ones
Some people think that using a fitness ball as an office chair is the only way to feel comfortable. Very often, I observe that they don't know how to adjust their chair or that they sit for too long in a row (i.e. more than 30 min). Check out this video to discover how to adjust your ergonomic office chair well!
what happens when sitting on a ball at work?
Bringing your heels backwards is also the idea behind a kneeling chair: to avoid slouching, let's hollow the back! Another bad idea, as I explain in this video...
Does sitting on a ball help your back?
You could think that if you know how to sit on an exercise ball, you will train your back muscles. This is another misunderstanding of what sports is: high intensity, short duration, prolonged rest. Sitting on an exercise ball at work is the very contrary of this: it does not create the cardiovascular benefits of sports, but rather tissue inflammation (see The physical activity paradox, by Andreas Holtermann).
does this mean you should ban gym balls?
No, it doesn't. The problem isn't the ball: it's how long and how frequently you'll be sitting on your exercise ball at the office.
My advice is: if you like your gym ball, use it... but only 10 min at a time, max 3-4 times a day, and during activities that do not require an intense concentration. See it as a tool to train sitting position despite unstable conditions, not as some kind of "fitness office chair".
so, how to sit on a ball at the desk?
To hold the pelvis in this neutral posture, you should engage the lower transverse abs (under the navel): if you bring them slightly inwards, you increase the pressure around the lower spine, which stabilizes it. This muscle effort explains why you can't sit for too long on a gym ball.
how about a chair with a ball for seat?
so... a yoga ball for all?
A yoga ball, gym ball, exercise ball, posture ball or whatever name you want to give it is therefore a training tool, not an office chair.
Hence, I do not recommend that companies invest in yoga balls instead of individually adjusted ergonomic office chairs. To choose well, have a look at this video and these technical specifications.
As an individual, you may use a gym ball to train sitting position, when your mind is not busy somewhere else.
I believe that we should invest in expensive things only when there's no other choice: an ergonomic office chair is a must work in proper conditions but for the rest, I prefer to get postural variation from adapting my working style (e.g., stand for phone calls and video conferences) and taking short but frequent breaks during which I practice this short exercise for effective muscle relaxation. The less I depend on "things", I more free I am.
To feel durably better and avoid wasting money on costly accessories, join the Online Posture Programs, the only empowering offer to correct your posture!
The cartoon below reminds be both of my job as an ergonomist and of my job as a posture therapist.
The ergonomist works mainly with companies (B2B). For many of them, improving working conditions takes time and energy. However, in thinking so they forget future gains in terms of productiviy, quality, motivation, lower absenteeism, etc.
The posture therapist works more with private people (B2C). He also meets many who believe that they lack the time (or the energy, or both) to think about the new behaviours that they need to repeat in order to anchor new habits. In doing so, they also ignore future gains in health, quality of life, performance (e.g., in sports), and even energy and immunity as several clients of ours reported.
Hence, yes: we always have other priorities than to correct an unhealthy state of things, which violates the laws of physics and anatomy. But do we really have a choice when we are not the ones who set the rules?
A recurring question usually comes when I train office workers: what is the right distance to the desk when sitting? The picture below illustrates 3 situations that I will comment below: at the right distance, a bit too close, much too close.
"Text neck" is an umbrella concept to describe the neck (and head) symptoms of those spending too much time on their smartphone (typically to write text messages). The March 2017 issue of the Spine Journal rings the alarm bell: practitionners notice an increase in the prevalence of the issue.
We absolutely agree on the fact that mobile screen devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) are a health hazard. Our main and most effective recommendation is therefore to limit their usage time. One way to do so is to call rather than to text, another one is to send vocal messages (e.g., via Whatsapp) rather than to type. Teenagers need particular attention from adults in this respect.
Once this is done, it is indeed true that raising the phone helps avoiding a forward head posture. However, holding the phone at eye level may also create strain in the neck and shoulders area. Hence, placing the phone on an elevated surface (e.g., shelf), inclined if possible, is surely a healthier option.
Finally, a good body awareness will help you keeping the neck aligned: make sure that your thoracic spine is not rounded, that your shoulders are not pushed forward, and that you keep your chin drawn slightly inwards. It will also help you slowing down when your body tells you it has enough...
Many people and companies purchase office chairs without really knowing how to recognize good ones from less good ones. Let's have a look at what field experience teaches us.
First of all, never buy a chair without testing it: online, everything looks beautiful and comfortable. Secondly, there is a difference between buying a chair for one person and buying a chair for a population. If you buy it for one employee, the chair may be less adjustable, as long as it is the right size! If you buy it for a population, it needs to fit a wider range of morphologies. Hence, the adjustment ranges may need to be larger. These technical specifications will help you choose a chair for a population.
Bear in mind that the more adjustment possibilities, the bigger the risk that it is not adjusted properly. One may rightfully ask whether more is always better. On the video below, you will discover the usual adjustments possibilities of a good office chair.
Next, let's see the usual flaws of many chairs on the market:
An office chair will last for many years (8-10). If you have the cash (400-800€), I advise you to buy a good one: the real monthly cost is actually quite low. Some shops also offer reconditioned or used quality office chairs, which are often a better deal than a new cheap chair.
Many brands are on the market. Here are two recommendations:
For the last 10 years we have been giving numerous conferences and workshops. More often than not, participants asked why we were not intervening in primary schools to teach children early on. Today we are officially launching a pilot project in Switzerland to achieve this. It was time: a large number of teenagers already suffer neck and shoulder pain, before even entering the job market! [...]
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