Office Ergonomics: Your How-To Guide for Sitting at Your Desk
Alicia Lazeski, MD
Neck and low back pain is a prevalent issue in American society; up to 80% of people will experience low back pain in their lifetime. Particularly as our daily activities become more sedentary, we see that poor posture is the main contributor to neck and back pain.
Studies show that sitting for long periods of time can cause your muscles to become inactive, and has you burning one calorie a minute, a third of what it would be if you were walking. And that’s even when you have good posture!
But most of us don’t even have good posture. Most of us sit like twisted pretzels, setting ourselves up for a lifetime of pain and injuries. And although standing desks (or even treadmill desks) are trendy, they haven't become the office norm just yet—making sitting the majority of the day pretty inevitable.
One way to combat this problem is to make simple changes to your home or work office environment.
Here’s your how-to guide for sitting at your desk:
- Set up your computer screen with the top of the monitor at or just below eye level.
- The monitor should be no further than an arm’s length away.
- The keyboard and mouse should be placed where the arms can remain relaxed and with a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
- To help alleviate low back pain, make sure your chair is at a height where your feet can be flat on the ground with a 90-degree angle at the hips and knees.
- The low back should be supported either by the chair itself or with additional lumbar support.
- Finally, make sure frequently used items such as paper, pens, etc. are within a short reach to prevent excessive leaning.
Little changes to your posture matter. Bad sitting habits—from slouching to crossing your legs—can lead to serious injuries and chronic pain. The ideal posture is rarely the most comfortable so these changes won’t feel normal at first. Try slowly incorporating these changes (i.e. five minutes every half hour at first) to get your body adjusted to a healthier posture, and over time, sitting properly won’t feel awkward at all. Your body will thank you.
To learn about other ergonomic tips or ways to prevent injury, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.
Alicia Lazeski, MD specializes in Physiatry.