Many of us have jobs that require us to sit in front of a computer screen all day, and if we are not mindful of our posture and the ergonomics of our workspace, it can lead to back problems. Every year back pain accounts for around 264 million sick days.
Setting up your workspace correctly is an important way to prevent back pain and enjoy a high quality of life. With more Americans working from home, setting up an ergonomic home office is increasingly important for preventing injury. Working from your couch or kitchen table may not be a safe option.
In addition to keeping you from working, back pain can prevent you from fully enjoying your life. Everything from mundane tasks like taking out the garbage to life's most rewarding activities like spending time with friends and family becomes difficult, if not impossible.
Our comprehensive guide to creating an ergonomic workspace can help you create a space that will ensure that you can focus on your work, not back pain.
Components of an Ergonomic Office Workspace
Preventing back injuries in the office is about more than just being mindful of your posture. Of course, paying attention to your posture is a crucial component, but you need to set up your office equipment in a manner that encourages you to maintain a neutral posture throughout your workday.
Your desk, chair, computer, and other office equipment can impact your musculoskeletal health. Making the right decisions about your office setup can prevent you from overexerting yourself.
Good Workspace Posture
An ergonomic workspace is one that is customized to your needs, which can be challenging because of all the variables. Regardless of your setup, keep the general principles of good posture top of mind.
When sitting at your desk, follow these tips to reduce your chance of injury:
- Your posture should feel relaxed and natural.
- Keep your head and neck straight whenever possible.
- Your upper arm should be close to your body even when you are typing and using the mouse. Avoid setups that require you to extend your arms too far away from your body.
- When typing or using the mouse, be mindful of the angle your arm makes at the elbow, so that you do not compress any nerves. The angle your arm makes should be 90 degrees or more.
- Make sure your wrists are flat and straight when typing or using the mouse.
- Sit back in your chair, and position your feet firmly on the floor. You may use a footrest if your feet do not reach the ground.
Ergonomic Desks and Chairs
Developing good posture can be challenging. You can purchase an ergonomic desk and chair for your home office to improve your posture.
Ergonomic desk chairs can encourage you to sit in a neutral, erect posture. These chairs provide lumbar support that protects your spine by conforming to its shape and ensure that your knees are level with your hips. If needed, adjust the height of the seat, which makes it easier to position yourself in relation to your desk, computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Adjustable armrests encourage a natural placement of your arms at your side.
Height-adjustable desks are a great option because you can adjust the height to suit your needs. There is no single setup that will support every task you complete throughout the day, so an adjustable desk is a great option that will allow you to change your position according to the task.
Look for one that will allow you to keep your keyboard flat or angled downward and will allow your wrists to be in a neutral position. A height-adjustable standing desk can give you a break from sitting all day.
Additionally, you may wish to purchase an ergonomic keyboard and mouse to go with your desk and chair.
Positioning Your Computer Screen
How many hours do you spend looking at a computer screen every day? In the U.S. it is estimated that for adults that number is about 10 hours per day. If your computer screen is positioned incorrectly, that could mean you are straining your neck, back, and eyes for more than half of your waking hours every day, which may cause pain, discomfort, or injury.
There are a few tweaks you can make with the position of your computer screen that will make your office more ergonomic and encourage good posture.
Viewing Distance and Angle
Being mindful of both viewing angle and distance can help prevent injuries from your workplace setup.
The viewing distance is the distance between you and your screen. A screen that is too close is more likely to strain your eyes. Place your screen close enough for you to see everything on your screen, but no closer. The ideal distance for you can change based on age or vision loss.
Your viewing angle is the angle between the imaginary horizontal line that extends from your sightline and the object you are viewing.
As you look straight ahead, the top of your screen or the search bar of your browser should be level with your horizontal sightline. The bottom of the screen should be no more than 30 degrees below your sightline. When your eyes are resting, you tend to look either straight ahead or downcast your gaze slightly, and this viewing angle supports your eyes' natural movements.
To put it more simply, when viewing your computer screen, your chin should be level, not tilted upward or downward.
There is some variation between recommendations for viewing angle and distance, so you may wish to use these recommendations as a starting point for finding the screen placement that works best for you.
Having two monitors is a great way to boost your productivity at work. For the ergonomic use of two screens, many of the same guidelines apply.
The position of your dual monitors will depend on whether you use both screens equally. If you use both at the same frequency, the same recommendations apply for a single screen: position the screens straight ahead. If you favor one screen over the other, place the screen you use less frequently in a position that favors your dominant eye.
A Dynamic Workspace
There are many moving parts with setting up an ergonomic workspace, so it can be difficult to get it just right. An ergonomic workspace will vary from person to person, and if there are changes in your health, you may need to reassess your workspace. Complicating matters further is the fact that you perform many different tasks throughout the day, and these tasks may require you to adjust your setup.
Regardless of the task, be mindful of the guidelines for maintaining a good, neutral posture. That way you are focused on your work, not back pain.
How a Chiropractor Can Help Prevent Back Injuries
As you create a safe, ergonomic work environment for yourself, consider seeking out preventative care. A chiropractor and a full body adjustment can help strengthen your musculoskeletal system and decrease the likelihood that you will get injured. Consider giving the doctors at ChiroCare a call to schedule an appointment today.