Do you spend a lot of time in front of a computer at work or at home? A recent study published by Microsoft revealed that U.S. workers spend an average of 7 hours per day on a computer, more hours than they sleep at night! In addition, 85% of workers report discomfort at their computer. The most common complaints are neck, upper back, shoulder, wrist and hand pain. It should be no surprise that HOW you sit at your computer has a tremendous bearing on your comfort. Proper computer posture can make all the difference in whether you have a painful or pain-free day at the office!
If you are currently having symptoms, I highly recommend that you find a physical therapist (PT) to help you. Finding a good PT is critical to solving most orthopedic pains, including those caused by sitting poorly at your computer.
Proper computer posture can be achieved when sitting or standing. If possible, I recommend that you do both throughout the day. The diagram below details the ideal positions. Here are some high points:
1. SIT ALL THE WAY BACK IN YOUR OFFICE CHAIR, DON’T PERCH!!
Whether seated or standing, your lower back should have a gentle inward curve right above your bottom. A good office chair should have a firm inward lumbar support that keeps you from slumping. Aligning the lower back and pelvis allows the rest of your spine to be in the proper computer posture. Use a footrest or plant your feet on the floor. Avoid lurching to the side or crossing your legs while seated.
2. BRING YOUR WORK STATION TO YOU
Your computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, and phone should be positioned close to you (like a cockpit). Monitors should be no more than 30 inches from your eyeballs to the screen. Too often, people put the monitor too far away then crane forward to see the screen, putting their body in painful and awkward positions. The keyboard should be at the very edge of the desk so your upper arms are in line with your body while keying. You should not have to reach for your keyboard. This puts painful stress on the shoulders and neck and can be the reason for all those “knots.”
3. RAISE YOUR MONITOR TO FACE HEIGHT
Most people have their monitor way too low. You end up bending your neck and looking down all day. The muscles of the neck have to work 5-6 times harder to hold up your heavy head in this position. When you look at your screen, you should be able to read the top half of the screen without looking down.
4. REST YOUR FOREARMS ON THE ARMRESTS OF YOUR CHAIR
When seated, your forearms should gently rest on your armrests so that the weight of your heavy arms can sit on the chair. Otherwise, you will be using your neck, shoulder and upper back muscles to hold up your arms all day long. If your armrests don’t adjust so you can rest your arms on them, get a new chair or order armrests that attach to your desk.
5. USE AN ERGONOMIC KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
This equipment is a MUST for any computer user. Proper computer posture is not possible without this equipment. Your mouse should be chunky to fit into your hand and tilt to mirror the natural curves of the forearm (the handshake position). The mouse should be positioned right next to you within easy reach. The keyboard should be contoured and split with a soft resting place for your wrists. I recommend IMAK ergo bead wrist rests for moussing and any gel or soft surface that is part of an ergonomic keyboard. Never, ever rest your forearms or wrists on a hard desk surface. This compromises circulation as well as creates compression on the delicate nerves that run through the wrists and forearms.
These 5 easy steps are proven ways to improve your computer posture and get rid of that annoying desk pain. Keep in mind that mini-breaks are essential. Every 30 minutes or so, get away from your computer for 1-2 minutes. Stretch, get a drink of water, walk around the office or simply do a few squats. These mini-breaks are proven to reduce pain, improve concentration and limit fatigue.
As I have mentioned in prior BLOGS, please find a good PT if you are currently having symptoms. Feel free to contact us at Life’s Work Physical Therapy if you are having discomfort at your computer, or if you have any questions about achieving proper computer posture.
Good luck fixing your computer work station!
Sandra Stryker, PT, MPT, COMT, FAAOMPT