Sitting at your computer with poor posture for long hours can create injuries to the spine. A stressful job and bad sitting habits can easily provoke slouching. This is characterised by rounded shoulders, head in a forward position, and a bent spine. The ligaments, muscles and discs that support the spine weaken and become more prone to injury. These 5 ergonomic and work-friendly tips can help prevent spine injuries from painfully impeding on our daily lives and help restore a normal lifestyle.
1. Shoulders should be not too high, nor too low.
Problem: Raising the shoulders towards your ears creates unnecessary tension in the cervical (neck) and shoulder muscles, while excessive lowering of the arms to reach the keyboard or desk area strains the shoulder joint.
Solution: Keep forearms parallel to the ground, and shoulder depressed downwards. Reposition your keyboard close enough to where your elbows are at your sides. A healthy resting position of the shoulders is not rolled forward or excessively backwards, but opens up the chest wide in relation to your torso.
2. Use a lower back cushion for support.
Problem: A computer screen positioned too far can result in slouching, which puts unwanted pressure on lumbar inter vertebral discs and other areas.
Solution: Place a lumbar cushion between your low back and chair to support the natural arch of your lumbar vertebrae.
3. Place far reaching objects closer to you.
Problem: It is common for the computer mouse or keyboard to be placed too far away from you, resulting in rounded shoulders and a flexed or slouched spine while sitting.
Solution: Your elbows should be at your side when your hands are resting on the keyboard. You can place the mouse pad closer to your hand or even install a lower keyboard drawer to create a space to place your keyboard and mouse at a more comfortable and safe level.
4. Position your head neutrally to maximise visibility and comfort.
Problem: Looking slightly downwards to see the computer screen, or pushing your head forward to visually see closer the screen content.
Solution: Don’t look slightly downwards. Eyes should be looking ahead directly to the centre of the screen. Change either the vertical height of the chair of computer screen to correct this.
5. Do upper back exercises to strengthen the core.
Problem: The upper back and scapular muscles of the shoulder can be weak so the spine and shoulders are not supported.
Solution: Perform scapular and core exercises with your Chartered Physiotherapist to build the endurance to withstand prolonged sitting periods at work. This will help maintain a comfortable posture, create muscle balancing, and prevent future onset of injuries.
Pain in shoulders, back and hands should prompt you to immediately correct your posture, and it can help to use the first 4 tips as a checklist every 20 minutes, to reinforce your awareness of your body. If you believe you might have a medical condition related to computer sitting, seek a professional medical evaluation by your Chartered Physiotherapist today.
Reference: The PT Project written by Regina Rahn and Cora Maglaya, PT, ATC, CSCS