Arthritis & Sports Orthopaedics and Physical Therapy (www.arthritisandsports.com)
Sit up straight, please (for your sake)!
STERLING, VA (Arthritis & Sports) - As you sit at your desk reading this post, you may want to ask yourself, "Am I slouching?" I can hear my mom whispering in my ear now," Sit up straight, dear" but to no avail, I am slouching at my desk at this very moment.
Many Americans sit at their desks at least 8 hours a day, and hey this isn't even considering what you do when you go home-sitting down to eat dinner or maybe to watch that favorite TV show of yours. When we sit down, it is far too tempting to just kickback and get comfortable, right? While your mind is saying yes, your body is feeling a BIG NO.
We, my friends have become a nation of sitters, and bygone if we're going to sit, we should at least do it right!
So why is slouching just so bad for you?
In a San Francisco State University study on posture, the researchers found that more than 30% of employees who work at the computer experience discomfort.
To explain further, a study on posture and study habits by the University of Illinois explains the negative effects of bad posture:
- Instead of your lower back maintaining its natural arch, the lower back instead rounds out. This causes stress on your lower back.
- When slouching, the upper body and head drop forward, causing the upper neck to extend in order to keep your head looking up.
- This causes strain on your neck. Instead of the spine bearing most of the weight, your muscles, vertebral discs, and ligaments bear much of the upper body weight.
- By slouching, muscles may be overworked or become constantly contracted. Lymph flow may be constricted. Soft tissues may become inflamed. Nerves may even get irritated.
I could go on, but for your sake, I won't. Are you sitting up straight yet?
But for every problem there is most likely a solution. As famous poet William Ernest Henley (or more recently Morgan Freeman) eloquently states, "You are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul." In other words you can do something about your bad posture.
First let's talk mechanics:Keyboard position
- Keyboard should be positioned below elbow height.
- If using a keyboard tray, it should be adjustable in height and tilt.
- If the keyboard is placed on the top of the desk, raise your chair height to position the keyboard lower than elbow height. Use a footrest if needed to support feet on flat surface.
- The kickstand tilts the keyboard the wrong way, causing the wrists to be bent upward. Place keyboard flat and raise the front slightly to keep the wrists straight.
- Position your body so that you are centered with the letters by lining up the letter "B" with your navel. If frequently using the number keypad, shift your chair to the right as needed.
- Position the mouse next to the keyboard on a tray or desk.
- If there is no room on the keyboard tray, you can place the mouse on a platform over the number keypad to prevent excessive reaching on the desk which can cause pain at the elbow.
- A good computer chair should have all of the following features:
- Seat must raise and lower so feet can be placed flat on the floor.
- Backrest should support lower spine and up to mid-shoulder blade level.
- Armrests are optional and should be short so they don't bump into your desk.
For proper positioning in the chair:
- Feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest
- SIT ALL THE WAY BACK IN THE CHAIR and lean against the backrest to provide full support for the upper and lower back.
- Allow for clearance behind the knees.
Now on to Posture:
- The top of the screen, not the monitor, should be at eye level. If the screen is too high, you will tilt your head back to look up at the screen, which can cause neck strain or headaches.
- Monitor should be placed directly in front of you when you are typing. This prevents turning your neck to the side, which can cause neck strain.
- The distance of the monitor should be at arms length when sitting all the way back in the chair.
- Raise documentation holder to same height as the monitor or place in between monitor and keyboard
Most desk chairs are height adjustable and roll around on wheels.
The first thing to remember is to make sure that both of your feet are flat on the floor in front of you. Your thighs should be more or less parallel to the floor, so use the height adjusting lever on your chair to make sure that these two conditions are met.
Next, make sure that your back is as close to the back of the chair as possible. Ideally you want it to be touching the back of the chair in order to take strain off of the lower back. Make sure that your arms are bent between 75 and 90 degree angle when you are working at your desk. If your arms are at a wider angle than this, then chances are you are slouching in your chair.
To improve your posture at your desk it is also imperative that you make an effort to keep your shoulders back and your back straight. If you don't make a conscious effort to do this, then you will fall into a slouching posture. Typing Techniques:
- Never type while resting your arms on anything including the edge of the desk, wrist rest or the arms of the chair. This can lead to increased strain and injury. When you type, let you wrists/hands float above the keys. This way you are not making all the smaller muscles and tendons do all the work.
- Keep shoulders relaxed while work. Elbows should rest comfortably at your sides.
- Position your phone on your desk so you can reach it without forward bending or excessive reaching. Utilize a speaker phone or headset whenever possible to prevent gripping of the receiver and poor neck posture.
- Keep wrists straight when typing. Do not twist from side to side when striking keys with the small finger, especially with the right hand. Instead, move your arm from the shoulder level to the side to prevent problems in the wrist.
- Use this method for the mouse as well to prevent twisting at the wrist. By moving the whole arm from the shoulder level, you are able to use larger muscles to perform the task rather than overuse the smaller ones at your wrist.
- There are many new products on the market such as voice activation software or various types of mousing devices.
Finally, it is a good idea to get up and move around from time to time. Every half hour or so, get up and walk around the office, get a drink of water, just make sure you're up and moving about.
If you follow these guidelines, then you will be able to improve your posture in a seated position quite effectively.