“Ergonomics can have a significant impact on your productivity and your health. Research suggests that a well designed ergonomic workplace can increase performance on average by 12%.” ~Washington State Department of Labor
This year, many of us have found ourselves attending work and school at home and possibly using desks, tables, and chairs that were not set up ergonomically or with the intention of long term use. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a major cause of back pain, cause increased stress on the back, neck, arms and legs and can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. Additionally, sitting in a slouched position can overstretch the spinal ligaments and compress the spinal discs.
Here are some guidelines to help make sure your work area is as comfortable as possible and causes the least amount of stress to your spine:
Elbow measure Begin by sitting comfortably as close as possible to your desk so that your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface (e.g. desktop, computer keyboard). If your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, move your chair either up or down.
Thigh measure Check that you can easily slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the chair. If it is too tight, you need to prop your feet up with an adjustable footrest. If there is more than a finger width between your thigh and the chair, you need to raise the desk/work surface so that you can raise your chair.
Lower-back support Your buttocks should be pressed against the back of your chair and there should be a cushion that causes your lower back to arch slightly so that you don’t slump forward as you tire. This support is essential to minimize the strain on your back. Slumping or slouching in your chair places extra stress on your spine and lumbar discs.
Eye level Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it so that you do not have to tilt your neck back/forward to read the screen comfortably.
Armrest Adjust the armrest of your chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. Using an armrest allows you to take some of the strain off your neck and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair.
Phone Use Holding your phone using your shoulder throughout the day puts constant strain on your neck and should be avoided at all costs. You should hold the phone to your ear with your hands or use a hands free device such as a headset to ensure you avoid this problem and possible neck strain. Additionally, your phone should be within a comfortable arm’s reach. You should not need to overreach to pick up or hang up your phone.
Regardless of how properly aligned your chair is or how good your posture is, you should avoid sitting or standing in the same position for prolonged periods of time. Static posture is not good for your neck or back and is a common cause of issues related to the neck and back. Take relatively frequent breaks to stand, stretch or walk around and try to adjust your position frequently. Continued movement throughout the day helps keep muscles, joints and ligaments loose and helps to prevent injury.
Chiropractic care is also a great way to improve posture and ease back pain. Spinal adjustments help remove misalignments and help ensure that the body is in a proper position with head, neck, spine, and feet all in correct alignment. Chiropractic adjustments paired with proper desk ergonomics can play a vital role in easing spinal pain, stress, and pressure.