physiotherapist don mills and steeles

By: Team Family Physio

Eat, sleep and work.  Unfortunately for most of us that seems to be our daily routine.  While most of us take the time to adjust our car seat or a bicycle to make sure that it fits properly, why do so few people think about properly setting up their work station?

Why are ergonomics important?

The most common injuries associated with occupational computer use are musculoskeletal injuries of the arms, head, neck and back.  These can be related to repetitive use injuries of the wrists and fingers, pressure areas on sensitive such as the carpal tunnel and overuse of the large back muscles from poor sitting postures

Seated Office Ergonomics

Seated work station
Seated work station

Are you experiencing neck and/or back pain? Do you sit at a desk for most of your day? Perhaps your desk set-up is contributing to your symptoms. Here are some tips on ideal office ergonomics.

Adjusting your chair

Your chair should be adjusted to allow you to sit with your knees slightly lower than your hips and with your feet supported on the floor. You should adopt an upright sitting posture with your buttocks to the back of the chair and utilize a back support to maintain the natural curvature in your low back. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your elbows bent 90 degrees.  There should not be any hard or sharp objects on the arm rests.

Adjusting your monitor

Adjust your monitor so it is centred in front of you and at arm’s length away. The top of the screen should be no higher than eye level. If you have a window in your office, position your computer screen perpendicular to the window in order to reduce glare.

Positioning your mouse and keyboard

When in an ergonomically appropriate position the keyboard and mouse should be at the same level and allow the wrists and shoulders to stay relaxed.  When using your keyboard the wrist should be straight.  The Mouse should accommodate your hand and their should not be any pressure points at the carpal tunnel.

Your Phone and other needed objects

If you are frequently on the phone, consider utilizing a head set in order to avoid straining your neck by wedging the phone between your ear and shoulder.

Objects that you use frequently throughout the day should be placed within forearm’s reach, while objects you use occasionally throughout the day should be placed within one arm’s length from you.

To avoid sustained and static postures, it is a good idea to take frequent breaks that will allow you to stretch and get out of your chair. If you find you do not have time in your work schedule, try to plan your daily activities in a way that will allow you to alternate tasks frequently (ex. filing vs. data entry).

Standing Office Ergonomics

Standing office ergonomics
Standing office ergonomics

With the recent studies showing the health benefits associated with movement and reducing sitting time there has been a trend towards the use of standing or sit to stand desks.  While standing the guidelines for the position of the mouse, keyboard, monitor and other objects in your work space remain the same, there are some additional factors to consider with the elimination of a chair.

Your feet

When using a standing work station additional stresses are placed on the feet.  It is therefore not recommended to stand for long periods of time on concrete or metal floors.  Using a mat on the floor allows subtle movement of the calves and leg muscles.  It is also recommended that you use footwear that does not change the shape of your feet.  If your shoes are over compressing your feet they can reduce the ability of the muscles and bones of your feet to absorb your body weight.

Ergonomics and you

There is no “one size fits all” ergonomic solution for everyone.  Poorly set up work environments can be one of the factors affecting your ability to enjoy your sports and recreational activities. The above examples are guidelines and are suitable for most people but may vary depending on your own personal health situation.  This may be due to a permanent limitation of joint movement such as with hip arthritis or due to a temporary condition such as a disc herniation or nerve root compression of the neck or low back.  Family Physiotherapy has put together two infographics to use as a reference to summarize general recommendations for sitting and standing office ergonomics. If you’re not sure if your symptoms may be due to your office setup then the first step is to have one of our physiotherapists assess your symptoms and the underlying factors that are contributing to them.

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