One of the most common injuries that presents to physiotherapists is back and neck pain resulting from sitting at a computer or desk for long hours. A number of factors can contribute to the onset of spinal pain, however sedentary jobs including prolonged periods of sitting in poor postures are definitely major triggers. Other common office work related injuries include overuse injuries from repetitive typing.
It’s important to consider your work station set up, to minimise the stress you’re putting on your joints and muscles. The following is a guide of factors to consider in the office environment:
Adjust the height of the work surface, to allow your elbows to be bent at 90 degrees, forearms parallel with the floor and shoulders relaxed. Place all accessories on the desk within comfortable reach so there is no unnecessary twisting of any body part.
- Computer setup
Set the eye-to screen distance at distance that allows you to focus on the screen easily. Set the height of the monitor so that the top of the screen is just below eye level and that the bottom of the screen can be read without significant inclination of the head.
Place the keyboard in a position that allows your forearms to be close to horizontal and your wrists to be straight
- Chair with adequate back support
A range of ergonomic chairs are available that will have support for your lower back. This helped prevent slouching. Lumbar rolls can also be used on standard chairs to give you extra lumbar support.
- Hip/ knee height
When sitting you should have your feet comfortably placed on the ground with your hips just above knee height. If your feet don’t quite reach the floor, then a footrest should be used.
- Work station evenly spaced out
In addition to having all accessories within easy reach, it’s important to spread items across the desk so you’re not always turning or leaning to one side of your body.
Avoid cradling the phone between your head and shoulder when answering calls. Consider using a headset or the phone’s hand-free capabilities if the environment is suitable.
Good posture is essential for all computer users. You should adopt a natural and relaxed position, trying to avoid undue tension in your neck and shoulders. Change your posture at frequent intervals to minimise fatigue. Avoid awkward postures at the extremes of the joint range. Take frequent short rest breaks rather than infrequent longer ones. The maintenance of a fixed posture for long periods is tiring and increases the likelihood of muscular aches and pains. In addition, long periods of repetitive movement can give rise to fatigue related complaints.
Some injuries do not tolerate sitting for even short periods. In such cases a standing desk should be considered.