Our posture plays a big role in how our body moves and feels. Many of our patients work behind a desk in prolonged postures that can exacerbate their issues. In this post we will discuss things to consider with your workplace setup and provide you with some tips to help optimise your workspace.
At work there are many things to consider with the positioning of your desk:
1. The height of the computer monitor/screen, chair, table and your own height
The height of the computer screen should be level with your gaze. You should not have to tuck your neck or look up to see the screen properly. If you notice you are doing this you can adjust the screen height or move your chair height accordingly. If you can not get to a position where your gaze is level with the screen due to your chair, desk and monitor's limitations you might have to Macgyver a solution such as a pillow on your chair to give you some extra height or a phone book under your monitor to bring your screen up.
2. Distance from the computer monitor/screen, keyboard and mouse
Ideally your eyes should be approximately a metre away from the screen to avoid eye-strain. Your keyboard, mouse and office phone should also be in close proximity to you so as to prevent strain on your shoulders.
Think of it like this: What would be easier? Holding your arm out in front of you with a straight arm for 30 seconds? Or holding it close to your chest for 30 seconds? Now if you knew you were going to be sitting in the same spot for 8 hours would you choose to reach with that arm or keep things close?
So move everything that you need to use regularly close enough to you that you could touch it if you had your arms close to your sides as if you were pretending to be a T-Rex. This setup will help reduce the stress on your shoulders, neck and arms.
3. Table design, chair support and comfort
Your desk/computer should be at the right height for you which you can judge from your head and neck position which we discussed earlier. If your knees can not fit under the desk, sadly the best solution is a new desk. The table should be wide enough to allow you to be close to your keyboard and mouse without being too close to your computer screen. Your chair should support not just your lower but your middle and upper back too. An ergonomic mouse-pad with wrist support is a great idea too.
Here we have some pictures for you to better visualise what we've been discussing previously.
What can you see wrong in the the picture below? (Apart from poor drawing skills)
If we look at this desk setup we can see many issues. Firstly, we can see that this person's eye height is not level with the screen. They have slouched forward to see the screen better but have moved them-self too close to the screen. They are too far away from their keyboard and mouse, stretching their arms forward which has rounded their upper back. This puts excess strain on the muscles of the shoulders, neck and upper back. Their chair is also too short for their back and does not provide adequate support.
What changes cane we use to improve our desk and workplace set-up?
Here we can see a drastically different workplace setup with a much more ideal posture. Our stick figure has his eyes level with the screen now. Rather than buying a taller desk or adjusting the height of the chair, he adjusted the monitor height by placing a big textbook beneath it to lift the screen. He has changed his chair to one that better supports his back so he can recline to a more neutral posture instead of slouching. Before he was too far from his keyboard and mouse and too close to the screen. Now, he has used his desk tray to bring the keyboard and mouse closer to him, allowing him to have his arms by his side so he doesn't have to move closer to the screen.
Hopefully this blog post gave you some ideas to help you set up a better work environment for you. If you have any questions about your workplace setup or are looking for ideas to improve it, feel free to ask about it at your next appointment.