Escape the Ergonomic Danger Zone
More than 90 percent of all office workers use a personal computer, but whether they use it correctly is debatable. By "correctly," we're not referring to whether they know how to download files, format documents, troubleshoot error messages or prevent e-mail viruses from attacking. We're talking about having your computer monitor, keyboard, chair and workspace organized in a way that promotes productive, pain-free work and discourages repetitive-stress and ergonomic-related injuries.
Your Keyboard Height: When you are in a seated position and sitting up straight, the position of the keyboard should be at the height of your elbows or below. Most people will sit with a keyboard height approximately level with their abdomen. This forces the shoulders to remain in an elevated or shrugged position, which activates a large muscle in your back - the trapezius muscle - and can result in a great deal of pain if that position is held too long.
Raising the height of your chair is the easy fix for this problem. Other situations may require a more aggressive approach, such as installation of a swing arm that allows for adjustable positioning of the keyboard. Keep in mind that the computer mouse should be at the same appropriate height of the keyboard.
Your Monitor Height: The top of your monitor should be at the level of your eyebrows or top of your head. Some individuals have to place their monitor on a stack of large books to maintain the appropriate height. If you are having trouble seeing your monitor and maintaining a forward position of your head, it is likely that you will end up suffering the consequences of poor postural position.
Your Chair Height and Sitting Position: Attempt to maintain flat-footed placement on the floor to help with overall balance while sitting. Your objective is to maintain proper posture while sitting by allowing as much contact between your body and the chair. It is important to try to sit back in the chair as far as possible and to maintain contact with your shoulders against the back of the chair. The backs of your upper legs and your buttocks should completely contact the base of the chair.
It will also help a great deal if you learn to sit while holding in your lower abdomen for extended periods of time. This helps support the soft tissue of the lower back, which is actually under more strain in a seated position than when you are standing.
It may seem like an oversimplification, but learning to sit up straight, suck your stomach and keep your keyboard at the level of your elbows and below are easy ways to minimize your risk of chronic and repetitive-stress injuries at the workplace. That's good news to you and your employer. Talk to your doctor for more information.
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