By: Cole Howell, DPT
Do you spend the majority of your work day sitting at a desk? Do you constantly find yourself fidgeting and struggling to get comfortable? Do you suffer from neck, lower back, or wrist/hand pain? Why not give your work space an ergonomic makeover!
People are spending more time than ever sitting in front of their computers. Here are a few tips to optimize your workspace set-up!
Tip #1: Get Moving!
A perfect ergonomic setup is not a substitute for moving! Every 30-60 minutes, you should get up from your desk and get moving. Whether it’s a short stretching break, getting a drink of water, or just taking a lap around the office, movement and changing positions will reduce your risk of pain associated with prolonged sitting. As an added bonus, these short breaks will reduce the amount of strain on your eyes from staring at your monitor for hours on end.
Tip #2: Adjust Your Chair
If you’re reading this, you likely spend countless hours per week sitting at a desk. Having an adjustable chair can cause drastic improvements in your comfort level. There are endless ergonomic chair options out on the market, but here are a few things to keep an eye out for when shopping for a new chair (or adjusting your current chair).
Lumbar support: You probably hear this term being thrown around a lot. Basically, you want a chair that can support the natural arch in your lower back. Look for a chair that allows you to adjust the lumbar support, so that you can customize it for your individual needs.
Arm rests: Ideally you want your elbows to bent between 90-120 degrees. You want your elbows tucked in close to your body, and your shoulders should be relaxed (No shoulder shrugging!).
Seat height: Your hips/thighs should be between 90 and 120 degrees, relative to the floor, and your feet should be flat on the floor. You should have roughly 2-3 fingers worth of space between the back of your knees and the chair. If you are unable to plant your feet flat on the floor, consider using a foot rest.
Tip #3: Change Your Desk Set-Up
If you’re working at a desk, you’re likely spending most of your day on the computer and/or telephone. Re-organizing your desk set-up and desk height can make a massive difference!
Your desk should be roughly elbow height (there should be enough space to clear your knees under your desk). Your keyboard and mouse, along with any other items that you use frequently throughout the day, should be close to your body, so that you can maintain proper posture and elbow/shoulder positioning. Your wrists should be resting in a neutral position. Having a wrist rest pad can assist with wrist positioning.
If you have access to an adjustable desk, even better! The more options you have for chair and desk adjustments, the easier it is to tailor your set-up to address your individual needs.
Tip #4: Move Your Monitor
Poor screen positioning can be a major culprit of neck and back pain. As a general rule of thumb, the top of your screen should be at your eye level, centered, and about arm’s length from you. Having the screen at the proper distance from you will prevent you from “turtling” your neck. Having the screen centered and at the proper height will prevent you from having to look up or down for hours on end, and will reduce your risk of getting the dreaded “tech-neck”!
Tip #5: Put Down The Telephone
If you spend a significant portion of time talking on the phone while typing/writing, the use of speaker phone or a hands-free headset is one of the quickest and easiest ways you improve your office set-up.
Try playing around with your work place set-up and pay attention to the changes you start to notice….and don’t forget to get up and MOVE every hour!