I can spend fifty hours a week at my desk easily. My work depends on it; then when work is done, there are the usual tasks such as paying bills online and keeping in touch with distant friends and family. Quite often a day has flown by and I haven’t moved position much. That not only strains my eyes, but it is a risk factor for back and neck problems.
In an office setting ergonomics has become a buzz word we have developed an immunity to. There are policies, handbooks and sets of rules which have been put together so we don’t hurt ourselves. We know they are there, but may not be using them. It is easier to rely on our subconscious habits. Being aware of and breaking out of those habits can save you chronic pain, or potentially more serious long-term problems.
To cut a very complex science down to a few basics, below are useful tips to remember when using a desktop computer, laptop or tablet device. These only cover neck and back strain. More information is available online on keyboard heights and other body strain issues.
- Keep alignment in mind. Your back, neck and head should be as straight as possible, at all times. If you stay aligned, you are not fatiguing and stressing your spine. If your shoulders aren’t relaxed, your position is wrong.
- Don’t cradle phones between your ear and shoulder; use the speaker phone button, a head set or put the phone down for a time to free both hands. This will save your neck.
- Have lumbar support for your back on chairs.
- The top third of your computer screen should be level with your eyes. iMacs have screens which adjust up and down easily. Similar set-ups make it simple to move the screen whatever your height, or if you need to stand up. That will save you crouching back down to read the screen. Also, make sure your chair is at the correct height for your desk.
- If you need to repeat tasks over and over, make sure you take frequent breaks or alternate tasks, so you can get up and move without feeling you are wasting time.
- Don’t sit in awkward postures for more than a very short time.
- Use laptop risers and iPad stands which conform to the rules above. If you are unable to, or still find your neck aches when using mobile devices, minimize their use and/or take frequent breaks.
- Keep heavy items such as reference books, between shoulder and waist height.
- Make sure that objects you use frequently; such as staplers, the phone and pen holders, are within easy reach so you aren’t over-reaching to pick them up.
- If you need to use paper documents as you work, a document holder which is attached to your monitor, or free-standing, may decrease neck strain as you aren’t looking up and down repeatedly. Even slightly bending your back and neck can create pain at the end of the day. It is repetition which creates the strain.
- Learn to touch type so you need to look at the keyboard less.
- Software companies make programs which will pop up on your screen, reminding you it is time to stretch, move and give your eyes a break. That will also help your spinal joints.
This post is an expanded excerpt from “Avoiding Back Pain: A Simple Guide.” This is free e-book you can download here. The file is a 700kb .pdf file which will work on any computer or tablet device. It is protected so you will not be able to print or copy from it, but please, pass it on freely!
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