Long hours spent sitting at a desk or hunching over a computer is a sure way to cause back and neck problems. It is the most common job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days. If you start the morning feeling fine and by afternoon feel like your back and neck are locked in a death grip, there’s good news. Even though you have to spend long periods of time in sedentary positions, the pain is avoidable. You’re not doomed to a career of neck and back pain or sore wrists and fingers. Proper office ergonomics — including a correct chair, adequate equipment spacing and good desk posture — can help you and your joints stay comfortable at work. You’ll need to learn proper ways to lift and bend and to rearrange your work-space to keep from slouching.
Back and neck pain can plague your workdays and free time. Examine your work environment and address situations that might cause and aggravate discomfort. Here are some suggestions to make your work-space healthier:
Adjust your computer.
Your gaze should be directly in the middle of the monitor screen. Laptops often require you to look down, so connect them to a separate screen if you can. You want your keyboard and mouse to be at the height where using them causes your elbows to be bent at or near a 90 degree angle, so you aren’t bending your wrists to type. This will keep the wrist ligaments loose and help avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
Avoid neck strain from texting and talking on the phone.
Looking down at your devices for any length of time adds excessive strain and can lead to degenerative changes in your neck. Raise the device to eye level, minimize the texting time and take frequent breaks. Use a headset or any type of hands-free device when talking on the phone to keep you head level and avoid cradling the phone in the crook of your neck.
Get an ergonomic chair.
A well-constructed chair can help reduce fatigue and discomfort, increase your blood flow, and reduce the risk of injury to your neck and spine. Make sure your lower back (lumbar spine) is curved naturally forward (as opposed to slumped outwards). Many ergonomically-designed chairs have a “lumbar support” built into them that is designed to maintain the curve. You can also purchase a lumbar support that attaches to the back of your existing chair.
Practice safe sitting.
Sit upright with your back and shoulders against the back of the chair. Rest your arms lightly on the armrests to avoid nerve pressure. Relax your shoulders when typing and try to keep your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor. Consider a standing desk. You’ll love the ability to move the desk up and down and take turns between sitting and standing.
Have everything within easy reach.
You should not be stretching to your utmost to reach something. Forcing your body into extreme postures, even briefly, can lead to injury. Everything that you use regularly when engaged in computer work should be within easy reach.
Take regular breaks and ‘micro-breaks’.
Just getting up out of your chair can help break the cycle of clenched muscles. Stretch, take a short walk, get the blood flowing. Simple stretches such as bending down to touch your toes can help alleviate back pain. Drop your hands to your lap for one second or less every few minutes or raise and drop your shoulders. You can make a rule to do this every time you send an email, click the mouse or do some other regular task.
Be mindful of your posture to reap the benefits of your properly set up work-space. These tips may seem simple but they’ll make a world of difference to alleviate the toll that desk work takes on your body.