Do you go home from your desk job stiff or sore? Sitting at a desk for an extended period can cause harm to your body. Tara Saul, a physical therapist at DMOS Orthopaedic Centers, has tips and tricks to help reduce workstation pain and protect your body from injury.
How can ergonomics prevent pain when working at a desk?
Ergonomics revolves around creating a work environment that is both efficient and safe for the person using it. These specially designed workstations can help prevent pain by setting up an environment that allows a person’s body to work in its optimal position by using muscles in the way they are meant to be used. Working in poor position places unnecessary stress on the body and can cause injury or pain.
What is the correct posture when sitting at a desk?
When at your desk, using the correct posture can help reduce pain from sitting for extended periods of time. Below is an outline of how you should be sitting in a chair as well as how your keyboard, mouse, and monitor should be positioned.
- Chair: You should sit with your weight equally distributed with your feet flat on the floor. (You may need to use a footrest to achieve this position.) The height of your chair should allow your hip and knees to be at 90 degrees. Your back should rest comfortably against the back of your chair. You may need to adjust the backrest height, so it supports the contour of your lower back.Both elbows should also be bent to 90 degrees and rest close to the body, this can be done by lowering or removing armrests. While seated at your desk your head should remain in a neutral position with your chin parallel to the ground.
- Keyboard and mouse: Position your keyboard at the edge of the desk, so your palms are supported. Your mouse should be positioned next to the keyboard. Saul also recommends using a wrist rest.
- Computer monitor: When looking at your computer monitor the top third of the screen should be at eye level to help your head maintain a neutral position. Your monitor should be placed about an arm’s length away from your head.
Stretches or exercises to help relieve workstation pain
When at your desk there are a few stretches and exercises you can do to help alleviate workstation pain. Saul recommends the following stretches for your shoulder, neck and lower back.
- Cross Arm Shoulder Stretch: First cross one arm in front of your body. Then with your other arm, pull across at your elbow to increase the stretch across the back of your shoulder. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with your other arm.
- Neck Stretches: Face forward, then tilt your head to the side moving your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with your other side. Next turn your head to one side, then look over your shoulder and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with your other side. Finally, bring your chin towards your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Then look up towards the ceiling and hold for 30 seconds.
- Low Back Stretch: Sit in your chair and gently grasp under your knee and bring it towards your chest until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Shoulder Squeezes: Either sitting or standing squeeze your shoulder blades together. Do not bring your shoulders towards ears. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
Other tips to avoid workstation pain
Saul also recommends taking frequent rest periods throughout the day. “Make it a goal to get up 5-10 minutes every hour,” said Saul. “With the ultimate goal of getting up 5 minutes for every half hour, you are sitting.”
If your eyes feel strained after looking at a computer screen during the workday, you may need to reduce the screen glare on your monitor. You can do this by making sure your monitor is not in front of a window or has a bright background. Make sure you are also giving your eyes a break throughout the day. Periodically throughout the day look away from the screen at an object in the distance to provide rest to the eyes.