Quite a number of my desk-working patients are presenting to me with back, neck and other problems such as tennis elbow because they are spending hours at a workstation which is not properly set up for them. Here are some key factors to consider to ensure that your workstation is helping and not hindering your mental and physical well-being:
- Ensure that your hips are higher than your knees your feet are flat on the floor or foot rest. Adjust your desk height if possible rather than adjusting your chair height to suit a lower desk height. Use a foot rest if your feet are not able to touch the ground.
- Seat depth - you need to be able to sit back in the chair to get enough support from the back rest but there should be about a fist’s width between the back of your knee and front of the seat. Consider using a pillow, cushion or lumbar support behind your lower back if your thigh length is not long enough.
- Seat tilt - can be used to ensure that your hips are slightly higher or level with your knees (you are aiming for a 90 to 120 degree angle at the hip).
- Arm rest - ideally you have adjustable arm rests which do not stop you from drawing your chair close to your desk (you are better removing them if they get in the way). They should be supporting the elbows while the shoulders are relaxed.
- Ideally you can use an electronically (or peg or screw system) adjustable desk to prevent it being too high or too low for you. Desk raisers can be obtained to increase your desk height.
- Your elbows should be level with or very slightly higher with the desk top when they are at a right angle and your shoulders are relaxed.
- The monitor should directly in front of you at arm’s length and at a height where the top is at eyebrow level. Avoid twisting to see your monitor. Position it at 90 degrees to any light source to avoid glare.
- If you are using a laptop, consider piling the laptop on to a pile of books (or use a laptop raiser) so that the screen top is at eyebrow level and buy a separate bluetooth or attachable keyboard and mouse. These changes should prevent neck, back and arm or hand problems.
- Copyholder - if you are referring to paperwork a lot while using a computer, consider using a copyholder attached to the side of your monitor to avoid long periods of neck flexion.
Keyboard and mouse
- Ensure that your upper arm and elbow are close to your body, your arm is bent at approximately a 90 degree angle at the elbow, the forearm parallel to the desk and you are as relaxed as possible.
- Avoid over-reaching for the mouse and keep the wrist as straight as possible when using it or the keyboard. You could consider buying a gel wrist rest to help achieve this position.
- Consider buying a headset if you use the phone a lot and avoid cradling the phone between your head and shoulder.
- Remember to sit tall and try not to slouch
- Take regular breaks from your desk every 35 to 40 minutes to avoid postural fatigue (where the muscles become tired and sore from lack of movement)
It’s really worth taking 10 or 15 minutes to check that your workstation is set up as I have just described. Do contact me if you have any questions about this issue or anything else - firstname.lastname@example.org or 07887 655007.