When your job requires you to sit at a desk, bad desk ergonomics (the setup of your computer, desk, mouse etc) can cause stress on the body and can lead to muscle and joint pain. In this article we will go through the basics of desk ergonomics to keep you comfortable and safe in your work space.
The aim of desk ergonomics is to ensure that you maintain a good body posture. A good posture is important as it allows weight to be evenly distributed through your body thus reducing the strain on your joints and helping to prevent injuries.
To achieve a good posture while at your desk there are a few simple rules to follow. First, sit upright with your shoulders back and your neck in a neutral position, so that your chin is level and you are looking straight ahead. Second, make sure your knees are at the same height or slightly lower than your hips. Third, your feet should be resting flat on the floor. Following these rules and achieving a good posture requires making sure your workstation is appropriately set up, including the height and position of your desk, chair and computer.
Desk and chair height: The ideal height of the chair and desk will vary depending on your height. Ideally, when sitting with your feet flat on the floor, the height of the desk should allow your thighs to be parallel to the ground and your arms to rest comfortably on the desk without your shoulders hunching up. Make sure the chair you use is adjustable, so that you can rest your feet on the floor and adjust the seat to allow your knees to be at hip height or slightly lower. If you can not rest your feet comfortably on the floor when the desk is at the right height, use a footrest to achieve this position. The chair should also have an adjustable back with lumbar support to help maintain a good posture.
Monitor position: The top of the computer monitor should be at or slightly below eye level to avoid neck strain. If you are using a laptop use a riser or a separate monitor to adjust the level. Ensure the monitor is a comfortable distance away from you so that you can read without straining your eyes and is not facing any bright light sources that cause glare. You may want to adjust the contrast/brightness of the screen or get an anti-glare screen.
Keyboard and mouse position: Your keyboard and mouse should be positioned so that your elbows are at 90 degrees and your wrists are in a neutral position, being straight or only slightly bent. You should be able to reach both the mouse and keyboard without having to stretch forward. If you are using a laptop on a riser then you will need a separate keyboard. If your keyboard or mouse causes your wrists to be in extension so that your hands are lifted upwards, change the keyboard/mouse or use a support under the wrist to bring it back into a neutral position. While these steps will help to prevent wrist and elbow problems, if you are suffering from pain there are also different types of ergonomic keyboards and mice that may be beneficial.
Taking regular breaks: The correct workstation setup and maintaining a good posture are essential to avoid injury. However, it is also important to change posture regularly and take breaks every 30-60 mins. Stand up, stretch and move around to improve circulation and reduce muscle stiffness. A sit/stand desk that allows you to lower or raise the desk and thus alternate between sitting and standing can be beneficial for this. When having a longer break, taking yourself away from the screen and going for a walk can help improve concentration, reduce pain and improve general health.
If you are struggling with any pain or unsure if your ergonomics are correct, discuss it with our physiotherapist and they can advise on optimising your work set up to help reduce or prevent pain.