Many people enjoy working in a reclined or recumbent posture while performing computer work. The reclined posture may benefit the lower back in some instances, but it can also create greater strain on the neck.
Research has shown that when a person reclines their chair between 110 and 130 degrees, with proper back support, that there may be less stress on the lower back . However, we should consider the effect on the neck. With the back reclined, the head must move forward to allow maintenance of visual lines. Forward head posture results in extension of the upper neck joints and flattening of the healthy curve in the lower neck joints. Flattening of the healthy curve in the lower neck places increased tension on the nerves and muscles, which may also result in nerve irritation leading to abnormal sensations like tingling in the arm and/ or hand. The muscles of the neck also work harder in this position, which may lead to tension headaches and discomfort in the neck and across the shoulders.
So, what can be done?
Don’t recline your chair more than 110 degrees to minimize forward head posture, and sit with your back against the backrest to take advantage of the support available. You should pause from work every 30 minutes to stretch, stand and/or take a short walk. Also, be aware of your posture and correct forward head positions when detected. Consider booking an ergonomic assessment to have your working posture assessed. Exercises to help correct forward head posture may be needed and can be provided as part of the assessment.
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Harrison DD; Harrison SO; Croft AC; Harrison DE; Troyanovich SJ. Sitting Biomechanics part 1: review of the literature…J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 1999; 22 (9): 594-609