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It is important that your seated position at a work station is set up correctly to enable a good relaxed posture, avoid stretching or unbalanced posture and reduce the strain and chance of repetitive strain injury whilst working. This is equally applicable at home as it is in the workplace.
Workstation advice to prevent pain
The most common causes of postural pains are:
sitting in a slumped position
poking your head forward to read the screen
stretching your arms too far to reach equipment on your desk such as the mouse, twisting to one side repeatedly
staying in the same position for long periods of time
The following tips will help you set up your work station for your maximum comfort.
Adjust your chair so your thighs are just above your knees
Your arms should be by your side with elbows bent to 90°. Your fingers should then rest comfortably on the middle row of the keyboard with your mouse within easy reach to the side of it.
Your back rest should be set at approximately 100°, so you’re not bolt upright. Get your bottom right to the back of the chair so that it supports your lower back in a neutral posture.
Your feet should be in contact with the floor once you have correctly positioned yourself. If not you may need a footrest.
Make sure your chair is brought in close to the desk to avoid over stretching. If you have arms on your chair which prevent this then you may need to adjust them or change your chair
If you have to twist to the side of your computer to do paperwork, swivel on your chair do NOT twist from the spine.
Desk height: With your elbows flexed to 90° your forearms should rest comfortably on your desk top.
Place other frequently used equipment and objects within functional easy reach so you avoid repetitive twisting movements.
Organise your desk so that you have enough space to comfortably carry out the various tasks in a day.
Use a document holder placed next to the screen when copying from a document or using it for reference. This will minimize awkward neck movements.
Laptop advice to help prevent pain.
The screen and base are hinged together; therefore it is impossible to position the screen correctly in relation to the keyboard.
The screen is often too small and the image is not always as good. This results in people straining to see the screen and poor posture.
The keyboard is often too small for comfortable use, and the built in laptop mouse pad causes excessive reaching to get to the keyboard. Using the laptop’s mouse pad instead of a separate mouse puts more strain on the wrist and arm.
The weight of carrying the laptop between locations can put strain on the back and neck, especially if carried in a bag on one shoulder.
Avoid using the laptop continuously as a substitute for a desk top computer. Only use it when necessary and for no more than an hour at a time.
Place the laptop on a firm, stable surface, not resting it on your lap.
Take regular short breaks from looking at the screen and from typing. Move the neck from side to side and forwards and back, circle the shoulders and stretch the arms.
Wherever possible use a separate keyboard and mouse with the laptop. This will allow you to position them correctly to encourage a better posture.
Always use a plug in or docking station when available.
When carrying laptops keep the distance to a minimum, try to divide the load between both arms and where possible use a computer trolley or laptop rucksack.
Other simple tips to prevent postural problems
Get out of your chair regularly every 20 minutes, and walk around.
Perform simple exercises while sitting such as, rolling your shoulders, arching your back and rotating your head from side to side.
Try to vary the tasks you do to avoid repetitive activities. If aches and pains persist, contact your physiotherapist to seek advice as to whether treatment will benefit you.
Remember – prevention is better than cure
Physiotherapy / Occupational therapy
A chartered physiotherapist or occupational therapist will be able to help relieve your symptoms and to promote good posture an avoid recurrence.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Orthopaedic Opinion Online or the author. The information is provided for general background reading only and should not be relied upon for treatment. Advice should always be taken from a registered medical practitioner for individual circumstances and for treatment of any patient in any circumstances. No liability is accepted by Orthopaedic Opinion Online, or the author in respect to the information provided in respect of the content or omission or for any reason or as a result of treatment in individual circumstances. This information is not for use in the USA.