Many people spend hours a day sitting at a desk or in front of a computer. While this is necessary for work, the way your chair, desk, and computer are positioned could be having a negative impact on your health. Here are some guidelines for positioning yourself appropriately in order to decrease pain that could be caused from prolonged poor posture:
1. Make sure your chair is at the right height. You should be able to have your feet flat on the floor. If this isn't possible because of your desk height, you may need to put a block under your feet so they are able to stay flat.
2. Your hips should be level with or, ideally, slightly higher than your knees. This allows the spine to stay neutral and aligned, while sitting up tall.
3. Spinal alignment should be tall and neutral. You shouldn't be leaning forward or hunching over to look at your desk-work. Conversely, if you're slouching back, it will send your body into a “C-curve”, causing extra stress on your back and pelvis.
4. Shoulders are relaxed away from your ears. Having appropriate height of your chair compared to your desk will allow your shoulders to stay relaxed and down. If your desk is too high, or your chair is too low, your shoulders will elevate.
5. Elbows are relaxed by side, about a 90 degree angle. You should be able to have your arms relax comfortably with elbow resting at about a 90 degree angle. If your desk is too high, the elbows will be bent too much. If the desk is too low, you will likely compensate by leaning forward.
6. Wrists should stay neutral. Neutral wrists are a comfortable, relaxed position, in slight extension for typing or writing.
7. Computer height should be slightly below eye level. There should be about a 15-20 degree angle for your eye gaze to shift down to your computer screen. This allows for your head to stay level and your neck to stay aligned. On a laptop, this is slightly more challenging, but adjusting your screen angle can make this more achievable.
8. Set up should be straight-forward. You should have your computer and keyboard directly in front of you. If you sit at an angle or have to turn your head to see your computer screen, this will lead to postural malalignment and likely pain over time. Make sure everything you are working on is directly in front of you.
9. Finally...Take Breaks! If you spend hours at the computer, take a break every once in awhile (ideally every 30 minutes) to change positions. Just standing for a minute or two can make a big difference in how your body feels. See below for a chest opener stretch that will help to reverse some of the effects of sitting and typing for long periods of time.