Work should not be a pain in the neck! (Or wrist, or shoulder for that matter!) You need to read this post if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort from the long days in the office. Our suggestions have been proven to assist in correcting improper posture while sitting at a desk.
Musculoskeletal injuries are rampant in the workplace. One of the most common complaints from office workers are injuries known as repetitive stress injuries (R.S.I.) and the main cause of these injuries is improper workstation set up.
At work most people simply use the computer that was assigned to them when they first started at their job without thinking of how it should be set up ergonomically. Each body is different, different angles, arm lengths, etc., and it is imperative that you have your desk set up properly to avoid muscle tension, headaches, and injury.
Here are the top 10 tips to consider when “fitting” your body to your desk computer. (Laptops are a whole other situation that we can discuss at another time.)
#1) Chair Fit:
a) Sit in a chair with a seat that allows for 2-3 inches of space behind your knees.
b) Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle.
c) Both feet should be able to be placed flat on the floor or on a foot-rest if your legs are too short to touch the floor. You don’t have to keep both feet on the floor the entire time, it’s best to change placement as often as possible.
d) Your lumbar curve should be supported with adequate padding following the curves of your spine along your low back. (When typing don’t lean back. Your upper back should not touch the chair back.)
e) Set arm-rests low or remove them so that while working, elbows are free and shoulders relaxed.
a) Place keyboard so elbows are at a 90-100 degree angle.
b) Use a wrist support to keep your wrist elevated and straight. (This is called a neutral wrist position.)
a) Set monitor so that eyes are level with the top of the screen for a 15″ monitor and 1/4 of the way down from top of the glass on a monitor 17″ or larger.
b) Eye distance from screen should be 18-24″ or about one arm’s length.
a) Place mouse on the same level as close to the keyboard as possible.
b) When possible move your entire arm, not just your wrist.
c) Add a wrist support to elevate your wrist to a level position so there is no bend at the wrist. (This is called a neutral wrist position.)
#6) Document Holder:
a) When working from paper use a document holder rather than laying it on the desk.
b) Keep the document as close to you as possible, either at eye level or directly in front of you, just below the monitor.
#7) Phone: (Assuming phone work is not your main task)
a) If you use the phone frequently you must use a head set or a speaker phone. This is especially true if you type or write while on the phone.
b) If you are not using a headset hold the receiver to your ear. Do not cradle receiver between chin and shoulder.
c) Place the phone just to the left side of your desk if you are right handed and to the right side if you are left handed.
d) Place the phone close enough so you don’t have to extend your reach to use it.
e) Be sure cords are out of the way.
#8) Postural Accommodations to Avoid:
a) Remove precariously perched items from your work area. If you are afraid you’ll knock something over, you may mal-adjust your body accordingly.
b) If your mouse pad slips off the desk use double stick Velcro to hold it in place. This prevents you from inadvertently holding the pad in place with your wrist.
c) Notice and make appropriate changes if you always turn to one side or the other to talk with people or reach into a drawer.
d) Maintain enough clearance under desk for legs.
#9) Posture to Maintain:
a) Hold your head centered above your torso – not forward.
b) Sit up tall with or without lumbar support.
c) Keep shoulders relaxed and down.
d) Change positions often.
#10) Take Breaks:
a) Irene’s Tip: “Save Your work, Save Your Shoulders.” This means every time you hit the ‘save’ command, do a few shoulder circles, neck stretches, or shake your arms. This should only take a few seconds and not be an interruption to your work.
b) Every 15-20 minutes get up, even if its just for 60 seconds to move and stretch. This allows the blood to circulate and eases muscle tension.
c) Use a kitchen timer or software to remind you to move, get up, or change tasks.
So Now That I Know All This, Where To Begin:
Don’t go out and buy anything new until you know what you need. All those fancy, expensive chairs may not be necessary or fit you properly!
Start by determining what, if any thing, is adjustable at your workstation. Most chairs, monitors, and keyboard trays can be lifted or lowered, though most desk heights are not adjustable.
I always recommend starting with the keyboard tray and chair in tandem. Place the seat of your chair at the proper height for your knees so they are at a 90 degree angle. Sit up straight and place your hands on the keyboard. Are your elbows at a 90 degree angle?
If you are a tall person, and your chair is set correctly, you may find your keyboard tray too low. If so, you can either raise your keyboard tray to a higher position or place your keyboard and mouse up onto the desktop. If you do move your keyboard up on the desktop you may need to raise your monitor. Many stores sell all sorts of nifty monitor supports that not only raise your computer, but provide additional storage space underneath for stamps, papers, etc.
If you are a shorter person, begin with finding the correct angle for your elbows. Once you know where that placement of your elbows should be, raise your chair so that your elbows are in this correct alignment. A footrest is necessary to elevate your feet so your knees are at the 90 degree angle.
Once your chair and keyboard fit you correctly, you can now begin to raise or lower your monitor so the top of the screen is at eye level. Move your monitor close enough to you so you don’t have to lean in or press your head forward to see the screen.
Adjust your phone, document holder, files, etc., so they are in the right places to be able to access easily and ergonomically.
Once in this new ergonomic alignment, you should feel less pain and be more productive. Now you can enjoy your new work station set-up and be rewarded with years of comfortable typing!