Proper Ergonomics While Sitting at a Desk are Critical

Sitting for a long time, at a desk, while using a computer is an unfortunate fact of life for too many of us these days. As a Monroeville and Penn Hills Chiropractor, I often see that this large amount of time spent sitting can cause serious problems for the spine and supporting musculature.  In fact, as you read this, you may notice that your shoulders are slightly rounded forward or you have that creeping tension in your upper or lower back. Even though it’s very common to get that, it’s not at all normal.

The single most important thing you can do to combat this is to make it a point to get up often. Set a mental alarm in your head to go off that tells you to get up. Meaning, if you know you’ve been sitting at your desk for too long (45-60 minutes), then you need to get up and just walk around for a moment.

One thing that I always tell my Monroeville and Penn Hills Chiropractic patients to do is, while at work specifically, think about how many times you get up to go to the restroom, get a drink, go to the copy machine, etc. Every time you get up for a task like that, take advantage of it. Take the long way. Don’t hurry right back to sit down, and use that time on your feet to stretch for 30 seconds. In fact, a great stretch to combat sitting is to find a corner of a room and put your hands on each wall of the corner as you face it. Next, slowly lean your whole body into the corner and slowly lean your head back. Hold this for 3-5 seconds and repeat as often as you’d like. You can do the same stretch in an open doorway.  There’s a good schematic of it here.

Besides that, proper sitting posture and ergonomics is crucial. Even if you don’t have fully adjustable chairs and workstations, there are tricks you can do to make everything right.

First of all, the standard is this: your keyboard and your monitor should be directly in front of you, with the monitor at your eye level. You shouldn’t have to turn your head or your body to type and see the monitor. Your arms should rest at a 90-degree angle when typing. Your back should be against the back of the chair. This link here has a good picture of what this looks like.

So here’s what you do when you don’t have fully adjustable chairs. To begin, desk height is what it is, it’s very hard or impossible to adjust. So just go with what you have.  Next, get your chair to the proper height so that your arms are 90 degrees on the desk so you type properly. That’s most often done by having to raise it up a bit, which most all chairs have as a function. If you need a backrest or lumbar support, simply bring in a bath towel from home, fold it long-ways and then roll it up. Place that on the small of your back for lumbar support. By doing that, your monitor may not quite be eye level; in fact, I’ll bet its too low. What I do is I put a Yellow Pages book or two underneath of it (hey, otherwise they’re worthless right?) to boost it up to eye level. You can use anything, but put something under it to get it eye level. So now you have the top half of yourself properly adjusted, often by doing all of that you’ve made it so your feet aren’t quite flat on the floor or not touching it at all. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your feet flat.  No worries, simply put an empty shoe box, a couple phone books (yes again, lets actually make them worth something to us), or any other small empty box (think of all those office supply store boxes you may acquire) on the floor to rest your feet on. Tinker with it until you get the proper height of your makeshift footrest, and presto, you have a proper ergonomic workstation.

These are tips that I almost always give my Chiropractic patients in my Monroeville and Penn Hills office. I hope you find some use out of them too.

–          Dr. Brent Shealer — Pittsburgh, Monroeville, Penn Hills Chiropractor

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