Sitting – Making the Best of a Bad Situation.
Sitting is the new smoking: we’ve all heard this phrase used by the media. For some workers, sitting seems inevitable. In a modern office, most of the personnel will be spending the majority of their time sitting in front of a computer screen. While this is less than ideal, we know that there are steps that can be taken to lessen the stress that bad ergonomics can put on the spine. In next week’s blog post, we will talk about how to select a good office chair for work. In the meantime, here is what you should look for when setting up your desk either at home or in the office:
1. Your Monitor
How far you sit from your monitor will depend on the size and resolution of your monitor as well as your vision. Generally, it is best to move the monitor as far away as possible and increase the size of the font used. Your monitor should be between 60-90 cm away from your eyes. A good way to see if your monitor is far enough away from you is to sit in your neutral position and extend your arms in front of you. You shouldn’t be able to, or barely able to, reach the screen. The monitor should be positioned directly in front of you with the top of the monitor just below eye level. It should also be tilted 15 degrees backward for proper accommodation of the eye.
There are some precautions to take if you wear glasses. If you wear bifocals, for example, the monitor will need to be lowered slightly. Keeping a second pair of glasses for computer-use-only is an easy solution. Another alternative is to talk to your optometrist about putting a computer prescription in the upper part of the lens. This will prevent you from having to extend your head to see properly. Try to minimize the glare in your monitor by using a glare protector or by moving the lights around your desk.
Your work might require using dual monitors. Placing the inner edge of both monitors directly in front of you is the ideal setup if you use both monitors equally. Your monitors should be placed further away than with just one screen to prevent head rotation. If one screen is used more frequently than the other, place that one directly in front of you. Swivel with your chair to face the other screen when needed. Move the monitors for the task ahead to minimize head rotation.
2. Keyboard and Mouse Placement
When using a keyboard and mouse, the upper arms should be relaxed and by your side, your elbows bent at a right angle (90 degrees or slightly more) and your wrists straight. Your keyboard should lie flat or negatively inclined (tilted slightly away from you), not propped up on keyboard legs. Using the keyboard legs puts your wrists in extension and out of their neutral position. Center the keyboard in front of your body and keep it within short reaching distance.
When using your mouse, use your whole arm, not just your wrist. Choose a mouse that fits the size of your hand comfortably and is as flat as possible to minimize wrist strain. Keep the mouse within close reach. The best mouse to use is no mouse at all. Therefore, the best thing you can do is to try and learn keyboard shortcuts which will minimize mouse use as much as possible. This proper positioning will remain the same whether you are sitting on a chair or using a standing desk.
3. Working on a Laptop
The design of a laptop computer is inherently problematic because the screen and keyboard are attached. Either your head and neck bend to see the screen, or your hands and wrists use poor posture at the keyboard. If you use a laptop frequently, consider buying either an external monitor or an external keyboard to improve the workstation set-up. When using an external keyboard, place the computer on a docking station or on a stack of books to minimize the strain on your neck. If you use a laptop only occasionally, you may find that sitting in a chair or on a couch and positioning the computer in your lap for the most neutral wrist posture is most comfortable. Breaks should be taken more frequently when using a laptop since awkward positions are more likely.
4. Taking Breaks
If your work requires long hours of sitting, make sure you take posture breaks and walk around. Great apps such as Straighten up Canada can help you create a stretching routine that will improve your posture and body core stabilization in order to prevent spinal pain and conditions. The exercises are easy and fun and can be completed quickly as a regular daily preventative health practice. The three-minute routines can help improve and prevent poor posture, which is a common trigger for general back and neck pain and can be completed by all ages. If at all possible, take breaks from the constant sitting by standing up to take phone calls or by walking to a colleague’s desk rather than emailing them. Short movement breaks away from the desk can have a positive impact on your posture, spine and muscle health as well your mood and energy levels.
Talk to your chiropractor and massage therapist today about ways to improve your posture and prevent spine pain. As part of the clinic’s community engagement, our chiropractors can offer ergonomic workshops to your workplace. Ask us how we can help!