Do you have pain when working at your desk (a.k. Death By Desk)?

We are all aware that the long hours spent sitting at our ‘desks’ during the working day can contribute to back pain, neck pain, knee pain and shoulder pain to name a few! So how can we help ourselves? What can we do to help ease the stresses and strains of the working day?

It is not always about the fancy ‘ergonomic’ equipment that you can buy. A simple awareness of what to look for can facilitate the smallest adjustment which is enough to change behaviour patterns or address bad habits. Consider the following:

1. CHANGE POSITION:

Putting your body in any position for a prolonged period of time becomes uncomfortable for EVERYONE. Even long hours on a sunbed can become uncomfortable!! You are a system that is designed to move so loosen those joints, offload that back and restart that circulation. Aim to get up at least every hour (30mins if you are struggling with pain) and either stand to take that next phone call, have a short walk around the office or to grab a bottle of water! GIVE YOUR BODY A BREAK.

2. RELAX:

Your posture should not be stiff. Stresses of the day can often result in us elevating our shoulders around our ears, stooping forward over the keyboard to our computer screen. Every 20-30 mins sit back and try to achieve the following:

  • Head straight
  • Shoulders relaxed (squeeze up as far as you can and hold for 10 seconds then let go of all the tension and exhale, repeat 3 times and you will achieve a more neutral, relaxed position).
  • Back fully supported. Sit back into your chair. Usually by the end of the day we end up on the edge of the chair. Your chair should support you.
  • Feet on the ground (or on a foot rest). Your knees should not be bent more than 90 degrees and if you are too high in the chair you will move forward to the edge. If your chair is too high and you can’t adjust it but a foot rest under your feet. This will prevent you overarching your lower back.

3. MAKE YOUR ENVIRONMENT FIT YOU:

With a clearer idea of where your body should be now look at the changes you can make to your workstation:

  • Keyboard: should ideally be 1 or 2 inches above your thighs. You may need to lower your desk or use a keyboard tray.
  • Angle your seat: Sometimes adding a slight forward tilt to your seat enables you to get your feet flat to the floor and your bottom to the back of the chair giving you a more upright position.
  • Lumbar support: you may have a fancy chair that enables you to adjust the support into the lower back. Lumbar supports can otherwise be bought online or a simply pillow can help. Ensure you don’t force your lower back into hyperextension as this can compress the joints and aggravate symptoms. Guidance from your healthcare professional (physiotherapist, chiropractor etc) can assist you with this.
  • Distance from the screen: Stretch your arms out in front of you and you should just be able to touch the screen. If using multiple screens, try to place the one you use most in a more central position.
  • Screen height: Align the top of your monitor to your eye level. This is because our natural gaze is slightly down, not straight ahead. Close your eyes, open them and look straight ahead, now see where the top of the monitor is and adjust accordingly.
  • Potential considerations: a document holder if you are having to read and type a lot to keep your head neutral rather than repetitively looking up and down. Headsets, can be used instead of regular use of the phone, especially if you have the tendency to hold the phone between your ear and shoulder!

SO IN SUMMARY……….

  • MOVE AT LEAST EVERY HOUR
  • MAKE YOUR DESK FIT YOU
  • RESET AND RELAX
 
INTRODUCE THESE CHANGES NOW. YOU WILL SOON FIND THAT THESE GOOD HABITS BECOME AUTOMATIC AND IT IS THIS CHANGE IN BEHAVIOUR THAT GIVES YOU THE POWER TO HELP YOURSELF AND CHANGE YOUR SYMPTOMS.
Davina Sherwood
Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist