BodyMend Wellness ClinicHeath and Wellness

Promoting Pain-Free Posture: Proper Ergonomics for the Office Workplace

Proper Ergonomics at OfficeIn this post, Roxanne Mathews, our Physiotherapist and Certified Athletic Trainer, shares advice for office workers.

While I treat many patients for traumatic injuries that have taken place in the workplace, at home, or in sport, I also see a great deal of patients with chronic injuries – injuries with no specific known cause but that have developed over time. 

Many of these patients have one factor in common: they are office workers, receptionists, data entry clerks, accountants, etc. They are professionals whose responsibilities are carried out primarily through the phone, computer use, and typing. 

Commonly, office workers will come to see me complaining of neck, shoulder, low back, or wrist pain.  Regardless of the body area, my diagnoses with these patients are often repetitive use strains, tendinitis or, in the case of more prolonged wrist problems, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS is a pinching of a nerve on the front side of the wrist that can create regular tingling and numbness into the hand. 

Many of my patients who work in offices tell me that they know they have bad posture, and that they think their posture might have caused their condition in the first place. Many of my patients have a good handle on what, over time, has been causing their symptoms; however, they don’t know what to do about it or what they can do to prevent it from getting worse. 

This article will answer some of these questions.

When patients tell me that they sit at their desk for 8-10 hours a day and only rarely get up, I feel that some education regarding muscles is necessary. Regular movement is essential to relax different muscle groups.

Movement prevents tightness, which can later advance into chronic conditions. When someone remains in a seated position for an extended period of time, tightness develops, typically in the neck, shoulders, and back. Tightness prevents the muscles from being able to stretch and perform the movements that we need them to. 

This is how chronic strains tend to develop. As a general rule, an office worker should aim to get up from his or her workspace at least once an hour. 

Regular stretching can benefit the office worker, and should be performed ideally once every hour, but otherwise as often as we think of it.

Good Stretches for Office Workers

  • Standing up and bending over to touch your toes
  • Twisting in alternating directions at the waist
  • Reaching your arms above your head, clasping your hands, and then bringing your arms down to your sides
  • Pulling alternating legs up behind you while standing to stretch the front of your upper legs
  • Rolling your shoulders
  • Tilting and rotating your neck in alternating directions

Anything you do to wake up your muscles that have sat stationary for a period of time will help keep your muscles limber and prevent you from experiencing muscle soreness.

An office worker’s workspace setup can also help prevent injuries. If you’re an office worker, you should evaluate your work area and adjust according to the tips below.

Injury Prevention Tips for Office Workers

  • Ensure both the computer monitor and the keyboard are directly in front of you – not off to either side
  • The computer monitor should be at a level equal to, or just above, your eyesight
  • The space between you and the computer screen should be approximately 15-25 inches
  • The keyboard should be on a tray just above your thigh level
  • Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle, your arms parallel to the floor
  • The keyboard placement should permit your wrists to be straight, not bent up or down
  • The mouse should be located on your dominant side
  • Try to keep your feet flat on the floor
  • Your lower back should be arched in – sometimes having a lumbar roll or a pillow behind you can assist with this

By setting up your workspace properly, stretching, and avoiding any prolonged positioning, you can significantly help prevent your chances of developing a muscular or chronic condition over time. This is a good routine to get into.

Having the desire to sit at your desk “just 10 more minutes” to get something done is a habit that will do you more harm than good over time.  Prevention is key, and you will be thanking yourself in the long run!

>> If you have a “desk job” and are experiencing pain or discomfort, please do not hesitate to book an appointment with us. We have extensive experience helping people recover from workplace strain injuries.

Like this? You might also like:
Slips, Trips, and Falls in the Workplace
Heat and Ice Therapies: Which is Best for My Injury?
Stretching for Stress Relief

Image source: womenshealthmag.com

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