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The Slouchproof Desk

Before you hunch over one more email, heed this advice from an acupuncturist, a Feldenkrais practitioner, and six other spine czars.

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Illustration by Jason Lee  

1. “The computer screen should be about an arm’s length away and centered in front of you to avoid neck strain. This is also a good rule of thumb when you’re on your phone for avoiding so-called text neck.”
Alan Hedge, Cornell professor and director of the human factors and ergonomics teaching and research programs

2. “You want to sit at your desk at the center of what we call the ‘circle of power.’ Place everything you need within easy access and comfortable reach. There’s no specific place you need to keep your phone or stapler—having something on the right or left is irrelevant—as long as it’s within that circle.”
—Stephen Barlow-Lawson, president of ergonomic-furniture-maker Biomorph

3. “To automatically align yourself, imagine a book on your head. Your chest opens and your shoulders go back. You’ll be able to get more air.”
—Rachel Potasznik, certified Feldenkrais practitioner and founder of BetterBodyLab

4. “Pulling in your neck to create a double chin is a good neck stretch. Do a few sets of ten. Women don’t like this one, but I tell them to do it when no one’s looking.”
—Kiambu Dickerson, massage therapist and head of New York Orthopedic Massage

5. “When tension builds up in the neck, shoulders, and upper back, it blocks the flow of Chi, which is energy that encourages blood flow and organ function. I recommend that people get up every hour from their desk and walk around and do some qigong stretches—shoulder shrugs, shaking the head ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ looking gently from shoulder to shoulder. They work wonders if practiced throughout the day.”
Bethel Sabin, Brooklyn-based acupuncturist

6. “The most common mistake people make in sitting is they rock back on their pelvis, which causes slumping of the low back. The lumbar spine is in flux. I suggest sitting at the end of the chair or putting a pillow behind their back to prevent this.”
—Rey Allen, certified Rolfer and owner of Rolfing New York

7. “A simple trick to get back to a neutral body is to take a thick towel, make it as dense as possible, and place it underneath you in the chair. Push the towel a little forward, so your butt hangs off the back edge. Do this for five minutes, then take the towel away, and you’ll be surprised by how much better you feel.”
—Kiambu Dickerson

8. “Adjust your chair so you have a right angle at your knees and your feet are flat on the floor.”
—Stephen Barlow-Lawson

9. “Going the standing-desk route may decrease the pressure on the discs, but be careful about your shoes: Heels as well as flats can lead to pain. Sneakers are optimal—if Nikes aren’t an option at work, slip into them only while you’re at your desk.”
Dr. Kenneth Chapman, assistant clinical professor, NYU Langone Medical Center

10. “Attach a height-adjustable keyboard to your work surface that allows you to tilt the keyboard down and away from you slightly for better wrist posture.”
—Alan Hedge

“Yes, sitting on a balance ball is a good way to train oneself to practice good posture, but remember it’s not a magic ball. It doesn’t make it easier to have better posture but serves as a reminder that one needs to actually work harder—that is, to actively engage the core muscles—to achieve a good sitting position.”
—Ross Markowitz, exercise specialist at La Palestra Center for Preventative Medicine, a hybrid gym and physical-therapy practice

“I tell my clients to trade chairs with someone else in the office once a week. You have to constantly change up the situation.”
—Rey Allen


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