Your Health Check Mate   


By Efrat Cohen, PT, MPT, PCS, C/NDT, Cert. Schroth Scoliosis Therapist

As a Physical Therapist, I spend a lot of time analyzing how people move and the postures they assume and why they do so. Usually, it is to determine the cause of injury and the manifestation of symptoms.

For quite a while, especially during Covid, I have consulted many clients on their at home workstations. Many have questioned the use of sitting desk and standing desks to help alleviate their symptoms from prolonged sitting. Similar to their creative work stations, most have not realized that their working postures are from ideal. As their work and life stressors increased, their posture worsened. Stress postures, including jaw clenching, forward head, elevated shoulders, crossed legs, only toes contact with the floor, increase many of my clients’ symptoms. With work station modifications, posture education, workstation specific exercises and strategies, clients can resume their work day symptom free.

Amazingly enough, the same rules do not necessarily apply to chess. Many chess players can be seen playing in sitting and standing in all sorts of positions and less than ideal posture based on observation. Hardly any research documents musculoskeletal conditions and symptoms due to the playing of chess. Chess players are under an enormous amount of stress but the stress postures assumed by chess players have not been reported to cause debilitating symptoms.

Research has shown that there are many health benefits to playing chess including enhanced memory, perception, decision making and problem solving skills. Playing chess improves concentration and learning abilities, mitigating dementia, and less chronic disease.

This past year brought some changes to the chess playing world. Many have played virtually with computer simulated games or through tele classes. Recently, in person games have resumed outdoors with the wearing of masks. Here are some suggestions that may help you with these changes:

 In person mask wearing:

1)        Elevate the chess board or sit slightly away from the board

Mask wearing blocks your lower visual field. In order to prevent excess neck bending, you can either sit slightly way from the chess board or elevate the chess board for better viewing.

2)        Create cool environments

Masks trap heat. As temperatures elevate create a safe place for cooling off.

3)        Hydrate

People tend to breathe more through their mouths with use of masks. In doing so, you lose moisture and dehydrate, which leads to fatigue. Drink regularly so you can concentrate on your game.

4)        Posture Correction

Upright posture allows for best oxygenation. While playing take some time to put your feet flat on the floor, with hands on the table move your trunk away from the table and sit yourself up tall.

For virtual gaming and classes:

1)        At desk play

While we enjoying playing games sitting, standing, lying on the floor, etc, take some time to play virtual chess sitting at a desk. It’s good to get in the habit of using technology with more formal sets up plus it simulates how to play chess in person.

2)        Invest in a laptop easel

If you are attending your virtual classes or playing simulated chess games using a laptop, tablet or cell phone, use an adjustable laptop easel to help you simulate more upright play as you would be doing if you were playing in person chess.

3)        Posture Correction

As discussed above, upright posture allows for best oxygenation. While playing take some time to put your feet flat on the floor, with hands on the table move your trunk away from the table and sit yourself up tall.

Here’s to your health and let the games begin!

About the Author:

Efrat Cohen is a graduate of Temple University’s Physical Therapy program. With over ten years of experience working with patients of various ages and diagnoses in New York premier hospitals, including NYU Langone Hospital for Joint Diseases and Hospital for Special Surgery, Efrat has mastered the understanding of how the body moves and what it takes to improve one’s posture.

In addition to her private practice, she created and runs a successful corporate physical therapy wellness program for employees at their work station.

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