MED+ Urgent Care Blog

4 Ergonomic Tips to Help Improve Posture
Fri, Apr 7, 2017

Sitting all day long may sound cushy, but the modern office worker knows that it can actually be hard on the body. Without office ergonomics, sitting may contribute to stiffness and discomfort. Learn how simple adjustments to your office furniture can transform your desk into a finely tuned work station that helps you feel more comfortable and potentially achieve a more efficient workflow. Start with the fundamentals for setting up your office desk, and then tackle selecting monitors and keyboards to help promote more complete comfort.

Find Your Desk-Chair Zen
Arguably the biggest factor in ergonomics in the workplace is height — namely, the height of your office furniture. Think of your desk, chair and computer monitor as parts of a single station, with each element precisely calibrated to your unique body. A disruption in this balance may cause your body to respond by adopting awkward positions. A short office chair may make you raise your arms to reach your keyboard, while a tall office chair may cause your feet to dangle.

Start by finding the proper height for your desk and chair. According to the ergonomic guidelines from the Mayo Clinic, your office chair should be short enough that you can comfortably rest both feet on the ground.[1] The seat's shape should allow your thighs to be level with your hips, and it should provide proper lumbar support to prevent you from bending forward. Your office desk should be tall enough to provide ample clearance for your legs, including your knees and thighs. Depending on your height, you may require a height-adjustable desk or a foot rest to get the correct ergonomic balance between your chair and work surface.

Keep a Level Head
"Chin up" may be your motto during long work days, but tilting your head upward while you work is not a good position for your neck and may cause discomfort. Adjust your monitor so it's at eye level. This height encourages you to hold your head level while you work for improved focus and comfort. Taller individuals can use a monitor riser to raise their screens to the appropriate height, as tilting your head downward is another no-no.

Any documents that you reference while you type should have an upward incline so that you don't need to tilt your head down to read, explains the Computer Workstation Ergonomics guide designed by University of California Davis for its large workforce.[2] Avoid the tilt and consider using a document holder. This affordable office accessory features an arm that attaches to your monitor to position it at eye level.

All Hands on Desk
Given how many hours a day the average worker spends with his hands hovering over a keyboard, the position of his arms and wrists can make a big difference in how much he manages to get done. For optimal ergonomic comfort, the Mayo Clinic advises that you hold your forearms, wrists and hands in a straight line that's parallel to the floor or inclined slightly downward.[1] It's especially important not to bend or extend your wrists. The repetitive nature of typing can force these soft-tissue areas into awkward or forced positions, leading to wrist pain.[3]

Many find that elbow rests help keep arms straight and shoulders relaxed. Depending on your height, you may require a keyboard tray to keep your arms at the appropriate height. Be sure to choose a tray that rests flat or inclines slightly downward rather than tilting upward, which forces the wrists to extend. Select a tray that's wide enough to accommodate your mouse as well. If you tend to grip your mouse, try resting your hand flat when not using it or switch to an ergonomic mouse, which encourages a neutral hand position.

Stand up for Comfort
Sitting for hours is actually hard work for your back. The position puts increased pressure on your intervertebral discs and throws off your natural posture.[3] Even the best ergonomic work station can't keep you comfortable if you work long hours. Take regular walking breaks to reduce any strain on your muscles. Alternatively, switch to a standing desk every several hours to give your back a break. These desks can include pull-out keyboard trays and mounted monitors to allow for the same ergonomic positions of your arms and head while you stand.

Fine-tuning the height of office essentials such as your desk, chair and monitor goes a long way in improving your posture and keeping you more comfortable. If you still experience discomfort or can't avoid extra-long sessions at your desk, try alternating between the upright, declined and reclined sitting positions. These healthy postures allow for natural alignment while offering you choices.[4] The upright position involves a straight torso and horizontal thighs, while the reclined position lets you lean your torso back slightly. Conversely, the declined position requires a straight torso and thighs that tilt slightly downward.

Many thanks to Office Depot for this information!