Posture Paradox: What’s The “Best” Posture In The Workplace..?

A Quick Snapshot:

Hands down one of the biggest questions I get from office workers revolves around what is the best posture at work. People will often blame daily aches and pains on “poor” posture”. You might hear people blame sitting. After all, sitting is the new smoking right? But if you’ve ever swapped a seated desk for a standup desk you’ve probably encountered a whole different set of problems, right? It doesn’t matter which position you’re in… it will inevitably get uncomfortable and eventually cause you pain. 


In this article, you’ll probably learn more about pain and the human body than you ever have, and it will help you understand yourself so much more. Let’s dive in.

The Alarm Bells

Picture this: your body is filled with hundreds of thousands of tiny little alarm bells. They’re all triggered by something different. One kind responds to changes in pressure, one to changes in temperature, and one responds to changes in chemicals. It’s important to mention that these alarm bells just make noise when they’re triggered, they don’t tell us anything about what is actually happening. They detect danger or threat, they don’t detect damage. They can’t tell us what has happened or how bad it might be!


It helps to picture something like the smoke alarm in your house. Remember the last time you set off the alarm with your burnt toast? The exact same alarm goes off whether it’s crispy toast or there’s flames spreading throughout your house…

Brainpower: Where The Magic Happens

Now this is the cool part. These alarm bells make your brain pay attention. Think of it like a security guard calling HQ to let them know there’s something suspicious going on, then awaiting further instructions.

Your brain is responsible for interpreting this information. It has an alarm bell going off but it needs to decide how to respond to this potential threat. Here’s where the magic happens: we have to apply context to the situation. A potential threat isn’t always an actual threat, it depends on the situation. 

Let’s use an example of context. You’re walking down the street and see a huge pit bull off-leash hurtling towards you at breakneck speed. It’s eyes are fixed right on you and it seems to be getting faster. Without context, this might feel like a threatening situation, right? 

But when we’ve applied context we get this: You’ve actually been looking for this specific pit bull for the last 6 hours. It’s yours. You were so worried about it. Your partner is right next to you calling it over with its favourite treats and it’s made eye contact with you and it’s sprinting happily towards you! Joy!

If we went back to the burnt toast example, were you making toast when the smoke alarm went off? Or is it 3am in the morning, it’s pitch black and you can hear somebody screaming “fire” from the other room of the house? Context. 

Your brain uses every single piece of information (past and present) to decide on a response. That means it uses your senses: sight, smell, sound, touch and taste to assess the current situation. But it also asks the memory centre of your brain for any additional information that might be useful.

Have you been attacked by a pit bull before?

Have you been told they’re extremely dangerous by friends, family members or the news?

Now this all happens in the blink of an eye, but your brain combines all of this information to decide what to do. If it decides that something is dangerous, it will make you take action (ie. you’ll run away from the strange pit bull chasing).

WTF Does This Have To Do With Posture..?

Don’t panic. I’m bringing this back around now. But that was an important bit of information to understand before we could move on. Let’s use the example of sitting down at your desk at work. We can all agree that being stuck in that cubicle on a $50 office chair gets uncomfortable (especially after 7, 8, 9+ hours…)

A quick anatomy lesson:

Your circulatory system has two sides. Basically, one side brings stuff in. The other pumps it back out. 

Your arteries are responsible for bringing stuff in. When I say “stuff” we’re talking about blood, oxygen etc into the tissues ie. all the good stuff that keeps your tissues alive and well. These arteries actually have muscles built into their walls, which means they can effectively pump in the blood. 

Now, the other side is made up of your veins and lymphatic vessels. These are the things that are responsible for pumping all the stuff back out. Unlike arteries, these long tubes don’t have muscular walls built in. This means that the process of “pumping” all the stuff back out actually happens manually.

Your muscles are the pumps. And they need movement to keep the system “flushed” so to speak. A lack of movement means we get a build-up of waste products and other crap in our tissues, such as lactic acid. 


Now here’s the answer you’ve been waiting for..!

Remember those tiny alarm bells? Well, the build-up of waste products (acid) in your tissues triggers those tiny little chemical alarm bells. Eventually, your brain will tell you to move when it gets bad enough.

The best part is that it doesn’t even matter what kind of movement, literally anything that involves the muscles actively contracting in some way should be enough to create a better flow.

That’s why it doesn’t matter which position you’re in. It will always inevitably become uncomfortable at some point. Your next posture is your best posture. Regularly changing positions is one of the most powerful tools you have in the office for combating those annoying aches and pains.

Office Aches? Give This A Go!

As far as “posture” in the workplace goes, hopefully, I’ve managed to show you that literally any posture you’re in will get uncomfortable and cause discomfort at some point. Here are a few tips you can use to minimise this when you’re in the office:

  • Be sure to change positions every 30-90mins
  • Find what is comfortable, worry less about the “perfect posture”
  • Get outdoors and use your lunch break to sneak movement in
  • Sneak movement in where you can find it ie. use the stairs, park further away, drink lots of water (so you either need to get up and pee or refill your bottle constantly)…

A Quick Note: Whilst this is always a useful tactic, if you’ve suffered an injury then there is good reason to avoid putting excessive pressure on the injured area while it heals up. So if you’re trying to manage an injury in the workplace or returning back to work I would suggest having a proper ergonomic assessment of your workstation and/or job roles.

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