Is your work station set up to minimize problems like carpel tunnel, neck pain, eye strain, and many other physical problems? All too often, people ignore the ergonomic factors that make work areas healthful and safe. Unfortunately, millions of office and home-based computer users suffer from a wide variety of back, neck, eye, headache, wrist, arm, and related problems simply because their work stations are set up incorrectly. Scientific research has shown that just sitting too long, even if you’re sitting in the right position, can be physically harmful.
The Five Factors of Smart Ergonomics
But it’s about more than just arranging things correctly. You need to have the proper equipment, like the right chair and keyboard, in order to avoid the common hazards of poor ergonomics. What are the major culprits that lead to the most problems? Well, all you have to do is look around yourself as you type on your keyboard, and you’ll see most of them. In no scientific order of importance, they include your:
- Chair style and height
- Desk (and its height)
- Monitor and its distance from your eyes
- Mouse placement and style
- Keyboard location and style
There are a couple of non-equipment factors that directly affect your on-the-job health, like your diet, exercise habits, lighting, and noise levels. If you want to create the ideal work space for your body size and shape, the first step is to learn about how to prevent the common hazards, based on the categories listed above.
What Kind of Equipment Do You Need?
There’s no magic formula for constructing the optimum work station, but if you know the basics, it’s easy enough to tweak what you already own and then acquire the items you don’t already have. Monitors shouldn’t be too small. Usually, screen diagonal measurements of 16 inches or larger are okay. With monitors, the main thing is distance from the eyes and proper placement.
You should have a chair that is both adjustable and comfortable, with good back support. You can add a cushion for back support if needed. An ergonomic mouse is a wise investment. These devices are shaped more like game joysticks than traditional mice. Most modern keyboards are good enough but the newer, ergonomic ones are ideal. Consider investing in one. Most any desk will do as long as the work space is high enough. See the section below, “Placement and Position” for detailed information on how to set up your equipment.
Placement and Position
Even if you own “standard office equipment,” you’ll likely be able to arrange an ergonomic work area without spending much money at all. For example, the typical office employee who spends more than four hours per day in front of the monitor should worry more about proper position of the equipment than about the equipment itself. In many cases, with a desk for example, you can raise it or lower it without having to purchase a brand new one.
Other items, like the mouse and keyboard, can be replaced with ergonomic ones at a very low cost, so consider getting the latest versions if possible. The chair and monitor are question marks here. As long as you can move your chair up and down, it will likely suffice. As for the monitor, you should be able to adjust its brightness. Assess your situation and decide whether you need to buy anything new or just tweak the stuff you already own.
Assuming you’re good to go with equipment, here is how you should position each item in your work space:
- Chair: Your office chair should be adjusted in such as way that you are able to sit upright, have firm lower-back support, keep your feel flat on the floor, maintain thigh position that is almost horizontal to the ground, and are able to cross your legs. The key point is to not be too far below or above your desk level.
- Desk: People’s bodies differ a lot in size and shape, so you’ll need to experiment with desk height. The average ideal height is between 27 and 33 inches. Make sure that when you place your arms flat on the desk, you are not bending your elbows much more or less than 90 degrees.
- Mouse: Most people intuitively know where they like their mouse to be. Traditional mouse design can be tough on wrists, though, so experiment with placement if you purchase an ergonomic mouse, which tends to put the hand in a more fist-like position as in gaming. Corded mice tend to pull and resist our hand’s movement, so the cordless versions are ergonomically better choices for most people.
- Keyboard: Here’s another category where personal preference plays a large role. If you have never used an ergonomic mouse, you should. It takes a day or so to get used to their feel, but after that, you will probably wonder how you lived without one. No matter what kind of mouse you own, place it so the center of the letter keyboard is in the center of your torso. Ignore the number pad when positioning. When you type, your wrists should remain straight, your forearms about parallel with the floor, and the keyboard itself should tilt slightly away from you.
- Monitor: Eye strain can be a serious challenge for many workers. Ideal monitor distance from your eyes is about 21 inches, with the monitor tilted upward at an angle of about 20 degrees. Additionally, set the top of the monitor so that it’s about even with your eye level. This way, you’re looking slightly down to see the screen. If blue light especially bothers you, purchase an inexpensive pair of computer glasses. Most cost less than a fast-food meal and can reduce eye strain considerably.
Diet and Exercise are Factors, Too
Non-equipment factors for getting the most out of your work space include eating the right kinds of food and getting enough daily exercise to avoid long-term health problems that often come from long periods of sitting. As far as diet is concerned, there’s no ideal plan, but consider avoiding high-sugar and high-caffeine items just before you begin work. These substances tend to interfere with concentration and can lead to volatile ups and downs in energy levels
If you work all day, or even half days in a desk, consider getting up to take walk breaks at least once per hour. Try to give yourself a mental break by getting away from the office and walking in fresh air if you have access to the outdoors. Move your upper body and arms as you move along, and take several deep breaths to make the most out of the short break session. Before sitting back down, do a few in-place stretches to relieve your back, neck, and leg muscles.
Adjusting Your Lifestyle
When you improve your office ergonomics, it’s possible to get a boost in productivity as well as physical health. In addition to all the perfect equipment and knowing how to position it, it’s wise to be aware of eating right and getting enough exercise. Regular visits to a chiropractor can help, too.
Chiropractic physicians can assess your back and other core components of your body and advise you about how to achieve and maintain good posture. If you work in an office and/or use a computer, laptop, or tablet for more than a few hours per day, it’s essential to get the right kind of medical care. At Delaware Integrative Healthcare we work with many patients who spend long hours at computer work stations.
Book an appointment at our Middletown (302-376-5830) or Dover (302 744-8650) office and put yourself on the road to optimum health. There’s no reasons to let a desk job wreak havoc with your posture and your physical wellness. Call Delaware Integrative Healthcare today. We’re always happy to answer any questions you have, whether you’re a new or established patient.