News Post

Straighten Up: How Your Posture Affects Your Practice

by: Calle Mendenhall

“Posture separates ‘primitive form’ from ‘advanced’ peoples and the ‘ill’ from the ‘healthy’.”

A few weeks ago, I attended a Zoom hearing with roughly twenty to thirty other lawyers from across the state. During the hearing, I found myself taking note of the way each of us was sitting in front of our cameras instead of indulging my usual curiosity of people’s locations and design style in their background. As I noticed others’ postures, I became increasingly conscious of my own.

Picture someone in your head right now standing up straight or sitting up straight in a chair at a desk. What do they look like? Do they look healthy in your mind? Do they look well put together? Now picture yourself in your mind as you are sitting right now. How do you look to yourself? Is your spine straight or in a “C” curve over your desk? If a client or higher-up came by your office, what do you think they would think?

Posture isn’t just about sitting pretty. It’s about keeping your body and mind healthy so you can best represent yourself and your clients. The most watched TED Talk of all time was given by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist. Amy’s TED Talk,” Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” focuses on the results from her 2010 study on posture. If you haven’t watched it, put it on your to-do list. As of this month, this TED Talk has been viewed over 60 million times. Her results overall show that when we stand in expansive positions, it signals to our brain that we are in charge of the situation, that we have power, hence the name “power pose”. Conversely, when stand or sit with our back slouched, our chest and shoulders curled inward, and our head out of line with our shoulders, a “contractive” stance, we begin to believe that we are not in control or powerless in that situation. She goes into more detail on the benefits and data of good posture in her talk, but overall, you get the idea. We feel better physically and mentally when we exhibit good posture.

Despite our depiction on tv, attorneys predominantly sit and work at a desk or conference table for large parts of the day. We sit at our desks to read email and make phone calls, sit in conference room meetings, sit with a client at lunch or dinner, sit for a Zoom hearing, sit while taking a deposition, it is an almost endless list of sitting. When our bodies sit for an extended period, we develop weak legs, abdominals, bad backs and tight hips. We also raise our risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and deep vein thrombosis. As they say, “sitting is the new smoking.”

If you have noticed that back pain, neck pain, tights shoulders, frequent headaches at the end of the day or simply don’t feel confident about what you are working on, try some of these easy, small changes:

  • Move your screens to eye level so you don’t have to hunch over your desk or keyboard.
  • Incorporate a break every thirty minutes or every hour.
  • Move your arm so that your phone is at eye level, not move your head/neck so you can look at your phone.
  • Uncross your legs while sitting at your desk.
  • Make sure your ears line up with your shoulders.
  • Make it a rule that you will choose to stand during conference calls.
  • Move your laptop, iPhone, or cell phone to a higher spot so you can stand during your next Zoom hearing.

Or, the next time you are in the market for new office furniture, consider adding one of these options to your shopping cart.

  • Use an ergonomic chair. Amazon has a ton of options. You get what you pay for so remember, if you’re spending an average of 40-50 hours a week sitting, you owe it to yourself to sit in something designed to keep you comfortable and healthy.
  • Buy a lumbar support bar to attach to your current chair.
  • Try out a standing desk. The data on the benefits of standing instead of sitting for just an hour a day is striking. Workers who use a sit to stand desk reduced their sitting time by over an hour/day and decreased their upper back and neck pain by over 50% and noticed an increase in mood states.

If you’re still not convinced that posture is important to your overall health, look up “tech neck” with the words “horns” or tails” the next time you have a minute. Bad posture from looking down at our keyboards, cell phones, iPads, etc. is being shown to cause or contribute to bone spurs or “tails” at the base of people’s skulls. I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I care to have or see in my lifetime.