I think that for most people who sit in an office chair slumped over a computer all day it’s no secret that sitting still can literally silently beat your back and neck to a pulp!
Here’s what I did to help to help you out…I went to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) website and perused their Computer Workstation Checklist for a few of the top tips on positioning of your body that I thought might help you the most. I then modified them slightly based on my clinical experience with seeing thousands of Video Display Terminal Syndrome cases and of course to ensure they are easy to understand:
Head and Neck – The top of the monitor should be positioned so that your eyes are just above the middle of the screen. This will help position it so you can read it without bending your neck down or back.
And just as importantly, your monitor should be directly in front of you so that your do not rotate your head more than 5 degrees right or left to view it.
Torso – Ensure your body is perpendicular to the floor and facing forward (not twisted).
It is fine to be leaning back against a backrest; just not slumped down against it.
Arms – Your forearms should be at a 90 degree angle to the upper arms and resting comfortably on armrests that allow good movement while you work and that do not push your shoulders upward into a shrugging position.
Wrists – Your wrists should be straight inline with the forearms and make sure they are not resting on an sharp edges while you are pounding the fire out of those keys at 50+ words a minute (I’m not really sure if that’s fast or not).
Hands – Give your hands a break on occasion by using a different type of mouse. If you use a 2 button mouse with your right hand all day, try switching to a trackball to change the position of the hand for a while or learn to use your left hand.
Legs – Your thighs should be parallel to the floor with the lower legs perpendicular to the floor. The thighs can be slightly elevated above the knees.
A big key here is to ensure that the back of your knees are not pressing hard into the front edge of the chair and also that the seat does not have a sharp edge. It should be cushioned and sloped off the front.
Feet – Place your feet flat on the floor or a foot rest so they are supported. Oh…and don’t sit on one leg (you know who you are) or with the same leg constantly crossed over the other. It is only a matter of time before it causes your hips to shift out of alignment.
Eyes – Ensure there is no light reflecting off your monitor because it can lead to you slowly assuming an awkward posture trying to compensate so you can see what is on the screen.
Also, try to position the monitor 18 to 26″ from your eyes. If it’s too close, it is bad for your eyes; too far and you will begin leaning forward to see it. Both will likely lead to problems in the long run.
That should give you a great starting point to help get your body in a better position to safely work at a sedentary job. It is the same basic list I use in my Phoenix clinic when interviewing patients about their ergonomic positioning and how it may be contributing to their pain.
Use that short list above to do an ergonomic self-assessment today and notify your HR if you need some corrections made in your video display terminal setup or if they are simple fixes just handle it yourself.