A.K.A. DESK-BASED JOB SurvivAL TACTICS
If you spend all day sitting at a desk, it’s really important to ensure that your desk is set up in a way that will prevent unnecessary postural strain leading to neck or back pain. It’s a lot easier to adapt your work environment to fit you than it is to try and constantly sit in the “correct” posture (we all naturally take the path of least resistance and energy use when it comes to posture!)
You don’t need to spend thousands of pounds buying expensive equipment to change your workstation, here are some handy (mostly FREE) tips to adapt your workstation to suit you:
1&2. Elbows at 90 degrees and use a chair with arm rests
Why? Having your elbows at 90 degrees and supported by an arm rest means that you can keep your shoulders nice and relaxed. If your desk is too high you will have to shrug your shoulders to use the keyboard, these muscles with shorten over time and you’re more likely to get shoulder and or/neck pain. If your desk is too low you’ll have to slouch use the keyboard and mouse increasing your chances of developing upper back pain.
How? You can do this by adjusting your chair or using cushions.
3. Support your low back
Why? If your low back curve is unsupported your pelvis tends to drop backwards, causing the your low back to flatten. This slouched position will cause the intervertebral discs (the fluid-filled discs in between the individual bones in your spine) to lose water more rapidly. This means that your back is more likely to show wear and tear changes. Also, if your low back curve flattens, this will cause your upper back to naturally slouch which will mean your neck has to compensate by bending backwards (so that you can see your screen). This causes the little muscles under your skull at the back to tighten and can sometimes contribute to headaches.
How? To do this you can use a cushion, lumbar support or just a jumper rolled up. Push your pelvis right back in your chair, this will cause your pelvis to tip forward slightly and maintain the natural curve in your low back
4&5&6. Seat height: Hips higher than knees with feet on the floor
Why? Having your knees slightly lower than your hips will help your pelvis to stay in a supportive position for your low back and stop you slouching.
How? The best way of doing this is to have an adjustable chair. If your desk is too high you may need to use a footrest. If your chair isn’t adjustable use cushions to give you a boost.
7. Keyboard within easy reach zone
Why? This is another important one to prevent shoulder pain. If your keyboard is too far forward you’ll have use your shoulder and arm muscles to hold your arms in position while you type. You could also try using a wrist-rest to keep your wrists in a neutral position while you type. If you do lots of typing, this will also help to prevent repetitive strain.
8. Have your screen at eye level
Why? If you’re looking down all day you are more likely to end with upper back pain, neck pain and/or headaches as a result
How? Ideally you want your screen to be at arms length and high enough that your eyes are in line with the top of your screen. If your screen is non-adjustable you can raise its height using empty box files or a pile of big books. If you regularly work from a laptop you should definitely consider getting a separate keyboard to allow you to position the laptop screen at an ideal height.
9. Mouse within easy reach zone
Why? As with the keyboard, having your mouse in an easy to reach place where you don’t have to reach your arm forward will allow you to sit with relaxed shoulders and prevent shoulder pain.
How? It’s very rare that I recommend buying fancy ergonomic equipment, however using a standard mouse requires your hand to face down and demands your shoulder to compensate. To see what I mean, place your hand on the opposite shoulder and turn your hand palm-down as if you were using a mouse, you can feel your shoulder has to adapt to this hand position. Getting a mouse where your hand is in a more neutral position like the one below is a good idea and needn’t break the bank.
10. Get a hands-free telephone
Cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder causes severe muscle tension. If you regularly use the phone, consider a headset.
So hopefully now you have a few more tools to avoid postural strain if you have a desk-based job. It’s also really important to take regular breaks to move and stretch. In part two of this blog I’ll give you a few more tips on exercises you can do in the office to help you stay pain-free!
Because osteopaths assess your posture to identify the root cause of your symptoms, there is a huge amount we can do to help relieve pain resulting from postural strain. If you’re interested in how osteopathy might help you call or email 07534 933516 or firstname.lastname@example.org