Desk Ergonomics in Office

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Desk Ergonomics in Office

Desk Ergonomics

We all know how hard it is to stay fit while you’re working at a desk for 8+ hours. Most of the day is spent sitting at the computer, sitting in meetings, sitting in the car or public transit during your commute. With all the time spent sitting, how are we supposed to find the time and space to exercise? How do I even keep good posture while at work?

Desk Ergonomics

Good news! We have a 6-part strategy to help you find ways to work out while you work. The best part is, you can lower your stress levels and exercise without any gym equipment. Read our blog post here to learn more!

In this 6-part strategy, we will help you understand and give you the choices towards healthy work practices and work practices that may be harmful to you and how to improve them:

1. Education and Understanding the effects of sitting
2. Proper Ergonomics
3. Body Positioning
4. Proper Desk Posture
5. Micro-Breaks and the benefits
6. Corrective Exercises

What are ergonomics?

A simple description is designing a workplace for the worker. Ergonomics may include using chairs for maintaining proper postures, placing water machines or printers across the room to increase step counts or simply placement of frequently used desk items like a calculator or a stapler. The challenge with ergonomics is that every worker and work environment is different and so a one size fits all model does not necessarily work. This is why it is important to have the ergonomic environment assessed if possible or at least be able to alter it in a way that fits you and your work habits. Here’s where our tips can come in!

If you are working from home and don’t have proper work place equipment for example a desk, a proper chair, a monitor, keyboard, mouse then some of these may not be applicable for you. However check out this blog that was created about adapting your home office for more information on how to improve that environment during times that you are working from home!

Step 1: Education and Understanding the effects of sitting

So we hear we should stand more… but how bad is it? According to a study from the American Journal of Public Health (2018), when comparing those who sit more than eight hours a day compared to those that sit less than four hours a day, risk factors increase for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, depression and physical pain conditions. Let’s break some of these numbers down. There is nearly a 2X higher chance of type 2 diabetes, a 10-20% increase in cardiovascular disease conditions (strokes, heart attacks, etc.), there is between a 13-20% higher chance of dying from cancers, and up to a 20% increased risk of depression for those that sit more than eight hours a day compared to those sitting less than four hours a day.

In terms of physical conditions there a definite increased risk in neck pain, tension headaches, shoulder pain, upper and mid back pain, lower back pain and the list goes on. But follow some of the tips in this article and let’s take down those risk factors for all of those conditions!

Step 2, 3 and 4: Proper Ergonomics, Body Positioning and Proper Desk Posture

Let’s combine this section and instead treat it per area of the body!

Neck pain and Tension Headaches:

Problems:

  • Improper monitor height
  • multiple screens
  • leaning in
  • spending too long in front of the screen
  • improper keyboard height
  • long term working on a laptop

Neck pain and Tension Headaches at the desk

Solutions
Improper monitor height

  • The monitor should be placed directly in front of you and when seated in a neutral position, your eyes should be at the top 1/3 of the screen when looking straight ahead. (get a monitor stand to accommodate this)
    multiple screens

Multiple screens

  • Many tasks means more screens right? It depends, we do challenge that you will not be using both screens all the time as you will have one primary screen that you focus on. Suggestion is to put the main screen directly in front of you and the secondary screen on the side. When using the secondary screen turn the whole workstation or chair towards that screen so as to take down neck strain for long periods of time
    leaning in

Leaning In

  • Get your eyes checked! Do you need an update prescription on your glasses? Or is the font too small and you just need to increase the magnification?

Spending too long in front of the screen

  • This will affect many in our jobs so take micro breaks and look outside for 30 seconds if possible, some Blue light lenses can be helpful and also, just get up and move and change the scenery once an hour!

Improper keyboard height

  • The keyboard should be placed in a keyboard tray or a desk that is directly perdpendicular to your elbows on the arm rest. Basically your shoulders should not have to shrug up to type they should be relaxed and your arms at your side and you should not have to reach for the keyboard.

Long term working on a laptop

  • Laptops are great for portability and small tasks but not great for long term use. Attach a monitor, keyboard and mouse to the laptop if using it at a work station because the attached screen and keyboard puts your neck and back at a compromised position

Upper Back and Mid Back Pain

Problems:

  • Desk is too high
  • Keyboard and mouse are too far away
  • Screen is too far away
  • Screen is too low
  • Seat has inadequate support
  • Working from a laptop

Mid back pain at the desk

Solutions

Desk is too high

  • When the desk is too high or the chair is too low, we tend to shrug our shoulders to work which pulls muscles across that upper back and creates constant activity and soreness. Get a lower desk, or a chair that can go higher to accommodate. Typically easier to get an ergonomic assessment to address these problems.

Keyboard and mouse are too far away

  • As with the neck pain this causes, some will place the keyboard further away and reach to type, maybe looking at documents that are closer to them. However, a rule of ergonomics is that anything that you touch more than once an hour should be within arms reach if your elbows are at your side. So even if it’s a calculator, water bottle, or your stapler, if you are reaching more than once an hour for it, bring it closer to you to decrease that repetitive strain.

Screen is too far away

  • This will cause individuals to lean in and add stress to the neck and upper back, simple, move the screen closer or increase the font sizes.

Screen is too low

  • Same as the neck solution, get a keyboard stand and raise up the monitor so that your eyes are level with the top 1/3 of the monitor. This will decrease neck and upper back stress.

Seat has inadequate support

  • Office chairs are challenge to say the least, everyone is different in size, height, leg length, arm length but unfortunately most companies buy these in bulk. There are many components to adequate support and ergonomic assessment is suggested. But a few things your chair should have are: arm rests, back rest, ability to raise up and down, tilt forward and back and a luxury feature is the ability to adjust the backrest forward and back which can accommodate different leg lengths!

Working from a laptop

  • Laptops are great for portability and small tasks but not great for long term use. Attach a monitor, keyboard and mouse to the laptop if using it at a work station because the attached screen and keyboard puts your neck and back at a compromised position

Lower back pain

Problems:

  • Chair is too high
  • Feet do not touch the floor
  • Chair does not support the low back
  • Chair seat is too long and not adjustable
  • Sitting up too straight

Solutions
Chair is too high

  • If your chair is too high, you are slouching forward to type and write and it rounds your low back and causes stress

Feet do not touch the floor

  • If your chair and desk are too high and your feet can’t touch the floor it puts extra load onto the low back. Get a foot stool to rest your feet against!

Chair does not support the low back

  • If the chair is a yoga ball or a backless chair it may activate the core more but long-term sitting on these unsupported chairs is just too much for the low back to handle, get a chair with a backrest.

Chair seat is too long and not adjustable

  • The backrest being able to move forward and backwards is a game changer because it allows the chair to be customizable to you. Every individuals legs are different lengths and so the adjustable backrest can make sure that you’re not slouching back to touch the back rest and it’s not forcing you to sit too upright in the chair.

Sitting up too straight

  • We often hear “sit up straight” all through our childhood but unfortunately, sitting up straight from our low back can lead to low back pain. The thought should be chest up and not sit up because when your arch your low back and hold that position it is basically the same as leaning back while standing. You would never stand leaning back for long periods of time so why sit like that? The best position is neutral that means the back is relaxed and the rib cage is stacked and level with your hips!

Step 5: Micro-breaks and benefits

A micro-break is an activity that makes you change your current positions for a short amount of time. Micro-breaks are extremely helpful for desk workers because it breaks of a natural process in our body called hysteresis. Hysteresis is a term that describes our muscles’ ability to adapt to stress in a physical environment. Our bodies adapt each day to what we are doing and it gets used to the stresses we put on them. So sitting without moving for 8 hours means there is a build up of scar tissue designed to keep you in that position because our body has adapted. This cycle occurs every 30-40 minutes and if we can confused the body during that cycle it won’t be able to build up the scar tissue. Additionally, you can use that time to grab some water to hydrate, do some simple desk exercises or just simply get blood flowing through your body.

Here’s a video that details a movement that can improve the health outcomes for many in the future:

Here’s some other alarming statistics of our lives now that are recapped from the video!

  • Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950
  • In a 65 year life span, the average American has spent 9 years watching TV
  • Studies show that we sit on average between 7.7 to 15 hours a day
  • Our children are learning these habits and by the time they reach high school 63% are no longer physically active

Step 6: Corrective Exercises

Neck:

Upper Trap Stretching

Levator Scap Stretching

SCM Stretching

Chin Tuck Exercise

Thoracic:

Pec Lacrosse Ball

Seated Cat Cow

 

Seated Thoracic Rotations

Low Back:

Piriformis lacrosse ball

 

Banded Box Squat

Hip Flexor Stretch

 

As always, if you have any questions about your conditions and would like to schedule an appointment with us at Baseline Health and Wellness you can give us a call at 6046744027 or schedule online at www.baselinewellness.ca

Provided by Dr. Kody Au, Vancouver Chiropractor

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