Did you know that our bodies weren’t designed to spend all day sitting? Have you heard anything about the latest research that points to sitting too much being the cause of a variety of negative consequences on our health and well-being? One of those problems is back pain. Many people say that when they switch between sitting and standing while they work, it helps them remember to periodically take quick breaks to move around a bit. Staying in one position for too long can lead to back pain—especially if your posture isn’t always perfect.
Even the best office chair won’t keep you at perfect posture all day—over time, we tend to slump or slouch in one direction or another. Perhaps you’ll lean forward, hunching over your keyboard, or maybe you’ll sometimes rest your head on one of your hands while you read what’s onscreen. Poor posture can lead to back pain from strained neck, as well as to herniated discs, and even overall muscle weakness.
Here are some simple tips to help you improve your posture at work:
Be aware of your posture. Don’t slouch. If you’re sitting, make sure your hips are positioned as far back as they can go in your chair. The back of your chair should support your upper and lower back, so sit in a position that lets the chair guide your posture. Your head, neck, and shoulders should be relaxed; your elbows should remain close to your body. Your forearms, wrists, and hands should be in a straight line and be approximately parallel to the floor.
Adjust your chair. Your feet should comfortably rest on the floor when you are sitting; your knees should be at or just below hip level. If your seating position is too low or too high, raise or lower the chair—or get a footrest.
Scoot in. Don’t sit too far away from your keyboard and mouse. If you have to stretch your arms out to reach your mouse and keyboard, you’ll tire more easily. Position your keyboard and mouse at a distance where you can keep your elbows bent in a neutral position.
Consider an anti-fatigue mat. If you spend a lot of time standing, you can help reduce stiffness or soreness in your feet, legs, knees, and hips by standing on a surface that has some elasticity. Anti-fatigue mats are softer than wood, tile, or concrete flooring, and can be made from rubber, gel, vinyl, foam, or other pliable materials.
Use an under-desk keyboard tray. Regardless of the kind of desk you use, whether you sit or stand while you work—or both—you should consider where your keyboard is located. You can help prevent musculoskeletal problems like hand and wrist pain, or even carpal tunnel syndrome, by positioning your keyboard at elbow height, with arms bent at about a 90-degree angle. An adjustable keyboard tray helps you easily position your keyboard at the height that’s right for you. Additionally, you can optimize your typing posture in more than one direction—the ideal position for your keyboard is at a negative angle, where the top of the keyboard points downward. This tilt adjustment helps you keep your wrists at a neutral angle to help prevent injuries.
Check the position of your monitor.Your computer monitor should be positioned directly in front of you, with the center of the screen at eye level. Whether you are sitting or standing when you are working in front of the monitor, your neck and shoulders should be in a relaxed and neutral position. If you use more than one monitor, be sure you can see them easily without having to turn your head.
Vary your body positioning. Don’t maintain the same posture or position for extended periods of time. Stand up, walk around, or do some light stretches for a few minutes every hour or so. Consider alternating part of the day working while sitting, and part of the day working while standing.