Computer Work Station Ergonomics


Because most of the workforce now spends a majority of time at a computer, posture has become more important than ever.  Poor posture leads not only to back pain but also neck pain and tension-type headaches.  Setting up your workstation properly can make an enormous difference in preventing all of these.  In my practice, almost every patient receives my diatribe on improper computer posture.  I remind them of my rule of 90 degrees.  The three large joints that are often neglected are the hip/torso, knees and elbows.  The hip/torso and knee angles should be kept between 90 and 120 degrees while seated.  Keeping your feet on the floor or a footrest in front of you (not under your chair or buttock) is important for maintaining these angles. The elbows should be held at 90 degrees (which is often difficult without the use of a keyboard tray) keeping your wrists in a neutral position.  This helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome as well as overuse injuries of the elbow (tennis elbow for example).  My patients are often surprised to hear  that proper monitor height also helps prevent back pain (as well as neck pain and headaches but they are usually less surprised by that).  The monitor should be raised so that the top of it is at eye level.  This results in a having your head/neck straight and lessens the likelihood of slouching, thus helping prevent low back pain. 

Finally, the most important aspect of my patients’ treatment protocols and the number one way to prevent low back pain is to get out and exercise.  Being stationary all day at a computer results in stiff joints, tight muscles and overall decrease in many of the body’s important reparative systems.  Exercises such as walking, jogging and swimming are examples of things you can do this winter to prevent aches and pains.  In addition, while at work, it is vital you stand up, stretch or walk around the office a lap or two for every half our straight you spend sitting at the computer. 

These are simple steps that should be taken by anybody spending a majority of their work day at the computer.   Hopefully this advice can help reduce the amount of pain and suffering from simple inactivity and poor posture.   Life is stressful enough, we don’t need computers adding to the problem, leave that to the flu.

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