However, as physiotherapists, we have experienced that the most common causes of neck and back pain have changed over time. Over the past few years we are seeing more and more neck and back pain that is originating from office work. One of the issues people are facing is the prolonged time periods they are spending sitting while working at a computer, in meetings, using their cell phone, etc.
Positioning at your workstation is very important to allow the curves of your spine to be as close to their natural alignment as possible. This can be accomplished through the set up of your office chair, desk, and computer. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
1. Your Chair
- Ensure your bum is as far back as it can go in the chair
- 90-90-90-90 Rule
- Feet flat on floor, so that ankles are at 90°
- Knees bent 90°
- Hips bent 90° (although could also recline slightly)
- Armrests are adjusted so that elbows can be comfortably bent 90°
- Articulating keyboard/mouse trays are ideal
- Adjust keyboard position so that it is close to your body and at a height to maintain the 90° elbow bend
- Center the monitor directly in front of you
- Top of the monitor should be ~2-3” above your eye level while seated
- If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a more comfortable level
- Sit at least an arm’s length away from screen
The most important thing to remember is that no matter how good your set up is, our bodies are built to move. We need to move to prevent muscle tightening, help lubricate joints, and improve the blood circulation to our tissues. It is a good idea to take short, mini-breaks every 20-30 minutes to get out of the sitting position and do some quick stretching. We have even gone so far as to have people set timers at their desk to remind them to move.
On a final note, do not forget about your eyes. They have a group of small muscles that control them, just like the other muscles in our body. A good rule of thumb is the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. Alternatively, after 20 minutes of work, cover your eyes with your palms for 20 seconds. This can help reduce some of the eye strain from looking at the computer screen for prolonged periods.
~ Trevor, Physiotherapist