Office ergonomics and posture
Do you work at a desk or computer all day? Have you ever struggled to make it through to 5pm because of neck or back pain? Do you have any wrist and hand issues?
It might be a result of poor posture…
Those of use who sit at a desk and computer know how easy it is to get lost in work and forget to take regular breaks. Prolonged positions combined with poor ergonomics at your workstation make us prone to pain or repetitive strain conditions of the neck and back, wrist, arm and hand. Below is some advice on how to improve your posture at work and lessen the effects of a desk bound job:
- Use a good quality office chair, that has adjustable back and seat sections and ideally, no arm-rests. Make sure the height of the chair relative to the desk is such that you can rest your hands comfortably on the keyboard. The desk should be close enough so that your elbows remain by your side, at approximately 90degrees whilst typing.
- You should be sitting back into the chair, able to feel the backrest behind you, with your shoulders relaxed. If the backrest is not contoured or does not feel supportive, you can use a small rolled up towel, or a lumbar support cushion in the small of your lower back.
- Have your feet flat on the ground or on a footrest to avoid stress on your legs and back. Your hips should be just a bit higher than the level of your knees. Your knees should be relatively relaxed in a 90degree angle.
- Position the computer screen directly in front of you as you sit up straight and look ahead. The screen should be at or just below eye level.
- Position your mouse and phone close to your keyboard so you don’t have to stretch across the desk to reach them. Your elbows should be able to maintain that easy 90degree angle and close to your sides.
- If you can, alternate using the mouse with each hand, so that both arms and both sides of your upper body are being used evenly.
- Use a document holder while transcribing from paper to computer. Position it beside your computer screen so you don’t have to look down, and try to vary which side it sits on. A document holder also prevents you from reaching over pages in front of you to the keyboard, which puts unnecessary pressure on your neck and upper back.
- Try to limit how long you remain at the computer – a short break every 30min or so to make a cup of tea, or do some of the stretches listed below, will break up that static computer posture and prevent muscle fatigue of your eyes, neck and back.
- The compact form of a laptop often leads to bowing of the head, internal rotation of the shoulders and slouching. Lifting the laptop screen to monitor height as previous discussed, and utilising an external keyboard and mouse is especially important if you don’t have access to a desktop computer, and the laptop is in use for prolonged periods.
Below is a list of easy stretches to use over the day. Do them gently, and as often as you need to. Remember that a stretch may be slightly uncomfortable, but shouldn’t cause any pain.
- Stand up and arch gently backwards, hand supporting your lower back. Repeat gently, 4 or 5 times
- Stretch your arms overhead, interlacing the fingers and breathing deeply to expand the lower areas of your lungs and rib cage. Repeat 4-5times
- Arms still stretched over head and fingers interlaces, tilt gently towards the right side. Hold for 20sec or so, and return to standing. Repeat on the left.
- Stretch your arms behind you, opening your chest and shoulders forward.
- Stand up and twist your torso gently from side to side for 20-30seconds
- Roll your shoulders backwards 10 times
- Place your right hand over the top of your head, and gently pull/tilt your right ear to your right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and return to upright. Repeat on the left side