First of all, what is ergonomics? Ergonomics is the use of physiological and psychological information to design products, or the science of designing the workplace. Because of the study of ergonomics, we have products such as standing desks and lumbar support chairs.
Ergonomics is an important thing to consider if you spend a lot of time at a desk when you are at work. Spending 8 or more hours a day at a desk without taking a break has many negative effects on physical and psychological health, but there are a few things you can do to mitigate those negative effects. Check out our previous blog post on how to prevent low back and neck pain by taking regularly scheduled breaks.
Other than having better habits, there are a few things you can look at in your workstation to make sure your environment is not contributing to any existing or future injuries. Here is a checklist you can use to make sure your workstation is in its optimal setup. Below is also a picture demonstrating some of these angles.
- Height of the chair: The height of the chair makes a difference on your lower back, knees, shoulders and elbows. Make when you are sitting in your chair, your knees are bent to 90 degrees or less. Your hips should be at a 90 degree angle, so that your thighs are parallel to the floor, or angled slightly downward. This would put your knees level with, or slightly below your hips. If your chair has the capability to go up and down, you may need to adjust this.
- Height of the desk: Similar to the height of the chair, the height of the desk makes a difference on your shoulders, elbows, neck, and upper back. The desk should be at a height where your elbows are bent to 90 degrees or more. It should not be too low, as this would encourage you to lean forward, or look down to work. If it is too high, you will likely hike your shoulders up, or widen the elbows in such a way that compresses the shoulder joint.
- Height of the computer monitor: The monitor height will affect your neck and upper back positioning. The monitor should be at eye level, such that your gaze is parallel with the horizon. If the monitor is too low, your neck will be flexed downward to see it. If the monitor is too high, you will be craning your neck to look up.
- Width of arm rests: The width of the arm rests on your chair, if you use them, can affect your wrist and shoulder position. The only problem is if the arm rests are too wide. If they are too wide, your shoulder joint will be internally rotated and abducted, which is a position that can contribute to impingement and rotator cuff tears over time. If the arm rests are too wide, this can also cause your wrists to bend towards the side to reach the keyboard. This can cause wrist and elbow pain over time.
- Size of the lumbar support: Many chairs that claim to be ergonomics-friendly, or have lumbar support, simply do not have enough support. If there is not enough lumbar support, you can add some by rolling up a towel. Having sufficient lumbar support means that when you sit upright in your chair and relax your muscles, the support helps you preserve the natural S-shaped curve of your back, including a slight curve of the lower back. You should not be tensing your muscles all day to sit upright, as this will tire them out significantly.
Addressing your workplace ergonomics is a great place to start working on your posture and musculoskeletal hygiene. Reach out to us at Potentia Therapeutics if you need any help improving your workplace ergonomics, or if you are having pain while at work. We can help identify areas of your ergonomic setup that may be contributing to your pain and help you address them to reduce your pain.