CREATE AN ERGONOMIC WORK STATION
The first step in preventing pain at work is to make sure your desk is set up in your body’s favor. Ergonomic means “intended to provide optimum comfort and to avoid stress and injury.” Follow these steps in order to create the best desk station for your health:
Step 1: Everything Within Arm’s Reach
First, make sure everything on your desk is within arm’s reach. You shouldn’t have to strain or move from your chair to use your phone or office supplies.
Step 2: Adjust Monitor Height
You should also make sure your monitor height allows your head sit atop your shoulders. This prevents your neck from hanging forward or arching back. Every inch your neck hangs forward or behind the center line, it puts ten pounds of pressure on your spine.
Step 3: Adjust Monitor Depth
To prevent eye strain and a hanging neck, your computer monitor should be no farther than arm’s length. If you are using a laptop, set it up on a few books and request a separate keyboard to prevent shoulder injuries (see Step 4).
Step 4: Adjust Arm and Keyboard Height
Adjust your chair height and arm rests to allow your arms to relax at your sides. This should allow your elbows to rest at a 90 degree angle. This prevents shoulder pain by avoiding using those muscles to hold up your arms.
Step 5: Adjust Mouse Position
After that, make sure your mouse is on the same plane as your keyboard so your wrist is completely straight. This will prevent carpal tunnel and other wrist injuries.
Step 6: Adjust Chair Height
Once you have established a 90-degree angle for your arms, you should make sure your feet are touching the floor and your knees are also resting at a 90 degree angle.
If your legs can not touch the floor because your desk or keyboard is too high, use a foot rest or phone book to make up for the difference. Using a foot rest can also relieve lower back pain by taking pressure off of your lumbar spine.
PROPER SITTING POSTURE
Sitting correctly doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or rigid. In fact, if you have your desk set up properly, you should actually be able to relax in the sitting position you have created. Most upper thoracic pain is a result of tense posture. Sitting with your shoulders scrunched up to your ears and neck hanging forward can cause major pain between the shoulder blades and in your neck. Proper sitting posture requires your ears, neck and hips to be in alignment.
You can promote proper posture by scooting all the way back in your chair so your entire back touches the chair back.
Even if your work station is perfectly ergonomic, it is still important that you move around throughout the work day. Physicians recommend you take breaks every 15-20 minutes (that’s 32 breaks a work day) in order to stay healthy. It might seem a lot for one day, but the breaks don’t have to be long. One way to encourage frequent breaks is to use a small water cup instead of a large one. That way, you have to stand up and refill it more often. It’s also wise to drink a lot of water so that you take more bathroom breaks (and it’s good for you to stay hydrated to prevent inflammation!).
Here are some suggestions for your short breaks:
- Stand up and stretch your arm over your head
- Stand up and twist your upper body from side to side
- Walk one lap around your office
- Stand up from your chair, reach down and touch your toes
- Walk up and down the stairs
- Stand up from your chair and do three squats
It’s amazing how a few simple changes can make a huge difference in your pain relief. If you are serious about preventing neck and back pain, try these tips and see what works best for you. While ergonomics can help you prevent pain on some level, it is important to seek treatment for chronic pain symptoms. We know that your pain can be distracting from your normal activities, so let us know how we can help you manage your pain by making an appointment in our office. Our pain management professionals can make a tailored treatment plan for your body’s needs.