Do you end the day achy, with a sore neck and shoulders? Do you have numbness and tingling in your fingers and forearms? Your desk setup may be at fault. For many people, the setup of the computer workstation has more to do with the furniture available than the best setup for an individual.
First, take a quick assessment of your posture. An article from TweakFit suggests putting your heels at the wall and seeing what parts of the body come in contact with the wall:
Counter all the forward slumping over your desk/keyboard and stand with your back against a wall. Start with your heels touching the wall. Try to notice what parts of your body are in alignment. Do your calves also touch the wall? Does your butt touch? Where does your back hit the wall? Is it just your shoulderblades touching? How much space is between the back of your shoulder and the wall? Can you get the back of your head to comfortably rest against the wall?
One of the most important things to notice is whether or not the back of your head touches the wall. If it does, your neck is in good shape. If you have to push your head back to touch the wall, you’ve got a head forward posture. A head forward posture places additional strain on the neck and shoulders and all the muscles of the neck and upper back because they much work harder to hold the head. If the back of your head touches the wall, your skull is centered over your spine and the bones support the bulk of the weight of the head rather than the muscles working to hold the head up in a head-forward posture.
Because so much of our day is centered around our computers and workstations, we spend a good deal of every day in whatever posture our computers put us in. But here’s a thought: put the computer in the best possible position for you instead of the other way around. One of the things that contributes to a head-forward posture is improper ergonomics (body positioning) at a computer workstation.
Here’s a quick summary of the most important ergonomic tips of workstation setup:
- Keep the thighs parallel to the floor.
- Keep your elbows at 90 degrees with the elbows on the same plane as the torso, not forward of the side of the ribcage.
- If your keyboard height puts your elbow angle at less than 90 degrees, raise your chair, and put a foot rest underneath your feet so your legs are once again parallel to the floor.
- Move your monitor so that your eyeline falls at the top of the monitor, with the monitor at 15 degrees.
- Your eyes should be at least 20 inches from the monitor.
This picture (also from Tweakfit) outlines the best position for working at a computer.
The two most important tips here are these: keeping the elbows at 90 degrees and keeping the monitor at a good height or level. Adjust the monitor higher by adding books or other objects beneath it to raise it. If the monitor is too high, raise your chair and put a footrest underneath your feet.
If the keyboard is too low, try raising the keyboard tray or putting the keyboard on the desk surface (although this will mean that you’ll need to raise the monitor as well). If the keyboard is too high, use a keyboard tray or raise your chair. Remember, the best height for the keyboard keeps your elbows close to 90 degrees.
These tips on the ergonomic setup of your workstation will help alleviate the stress bad posture puts on your body. However, it is also important that you take frequent breaks, at least one per hour, to stand up from your desk, relax your shoulders and stretch out your back. In a future post, I will link to some software tools that will remind you to take breaks during your day.
Until then, take a peek at your workstation setup and make some adjustments. Your shoulders with thank you. And your neck, and eyes, and arms, and wrists, and fingers, and. . .
Other links to check out for more detailed information: