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Office work was once looked upon as the safest place to make a buck. With our increasing dependence on computers the amount of time we spend hunched over the keyboards is having detrimental effects on our bodies. Ergonomics is the study of these effects and is something we will be hearing more and more about as the repetitive use injuries from computer work increase. With all the health risks around us that we can't control, posture is something you can correct. How you hold your body in space has an effect on your health and well-being.

How do you know if you have good posture? Your head should be directly over the shoulders and your shoulders should be back and directly over your hips. This position protects the 4 curves of the spine. These curves counterbalance and allow the spine to remain balanced over the center of gravity. When posture is good, all the organs can function properly without interference. Also, your nervous system ability to monitor and control the whole body's function is enhanced. Conversely, improper posture leads to gradual degeneration of the spine. The spine and muscles surrounding it were meant to work together like the steel and cables of a suspension bridge. If the structure, or curve of the bridge is changed too dramatically for too long the cables will not be able to support the weight of the bridge, leading to destruction of the steel and overall structure. Improper posture over time results in misaligned vertebrae which can irritate nerves and ligaments and muscles stretch unevenly.

Always practice good posture when sitting, standing and even sleeping. This article is focused on sitting because it is the causing the most problems with our country's health. Your first step should be to select a chair that allows you to sit in neutral posture. Keep items that you will need while sitting at your desk within arm's reach to reduce unnecessary stretching. Feet should be kept on the floor, without your legs being crossed. Crossing the legs is harmful to the knees and low back. Do not slump down in your chair. This may seem more comfortable but it leads to gradual spinal degeneration, because it reverses the lumbar curve and makes the muscles do all the work of support. When sitting your arms should be kept at 90 degrees, so make sure your chair is the proper height. It is best to have a chair with arms that also has a lumbar support curve. It is also helpful if it has rollers.

The key to change is first becoming more conscious of how you sit. Changing, like anything else, takes practice. There are a few exercises that can be done at your desk that will help emphasize proper posture. Pinch your shoulder blades together as hard as you can for 15 seconds. This should be repeated 3 to 4 times. Then tuck your chin in like you are making a double chin. Hold this for 15 seconds as hard as you can and repeat 3 to 4 times also. Both of these strengthen the postural muscles and make it easier to keep your self in the proper position. When you are working long hours at the computer it is important to take mini-breaks. Lean back in your chair and extend your arms out and away from your body. These breaks should be done every 30 minutes and you should get up from your chair and move around for at least 5 minutes every hour.

Practice these tips to decrease the toll that computer work has on your body. You will find that you will be less fatigued and have more energy left at the end of the day to spend doing the things you enjoy.