As a physiotherapist, I spend a lot of time discussing proper posture with my patients. Because most people spend the majority of the day in the workplace, the discussion often leads to how they can reduce pain and repetitive strain at work by improving their posture and positioning. This is especially a problem at their computer work station. Most of us can admit to times where we are slouched in our chairs at our computer, hunched over the keyboard for hours at a time. This can often lead to discomfort throughout your neck, shoulders, and back.
The term “ergonomics” refers to several factors in the workplace that help to maximize productivity by reducing worker fatigue and discomfort. The history of ergonomics dates back to the times of Ancient Greece, when tools in the workplace were specifically arranged for ease of use by the worker. Today, given the need for computers and electronics in the workplace, there are many ergonomic factors that can be applied to modern day work stations. Here are 3 factors to consider in your own workplace environment that can help to improve posture and reduce discomfort:
1. Proper Seating
Select a height-adjustable chair, ensuring that your feet are able to rest flat on the floor. Your thighs should rest on the seat parallel to the floor or a foot rest should be used to ensure that they do. The chair should also have a lumbar support to ensure the proper curvature of your spine. If the chair is not equipped with this you can easily create your own support by rolling up a hand towel and placing it laterally across the small of your back, leaning back against the towel. Lastly ensure that your chair has arm rests so that your arms can rest comfortably at 90 degrees.
2. Computer Monitor Position
The monitor should be placed directly in front of the worker, so that the top of the screen is at eye level. If the monitor is placed too low (below eye level), neck muscles are required to stay in a slightly flexed position often leading to pain and discomfort of neck and shoulders. A quick trick is to place a phone book under the monitor to adjust its height if it is too low for you. Lastly consider the size of your monitor – the larger the screen the farther away it should be from you.
3. Position of Items on Your Desk
Take a look at the position of all the items on your desk that you routinely use – your mouse, keyboard, calculator, phone, or stapler to name a few. If you must lean excessively forward to reach these items then consider adjusting their position. For example, your keyboard should be positioned so that your wrists are in line with your forearms, without leaning forward. Lastly, my favourite tip that I often give to my patients is to use a document or book stand. With your paperwork propped up to eye level you don’t have to switch between looking up and down causing undue stress on your neck muscles.
By ensuring proper positioning at your work station you can help decrease pain and fatigue, while enhancing productivity. If you do find yourself with discomfort from poor ergonomics your physiotherapist can help determine an appropriate treatment plan.