Ergonomic Issues – Sitting at a Desk

Over the last decade, workers have increased the amount of time they spend sitting at a desk, watching television, or using a computer to nearly 12 hours per day, according to a Harris poll conducted by the America On the Move Foundation. All together, this extensive length of time can put an individual at risk of back pain, particularly if they sit with poor posture, leg cramps, or tense muscles. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), individuals should keep their bodies in a neutral position where joints are naturally aligned to reduce the risk of stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal systems and help prevent development of a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). OSHA recommends the following:

To achieve a neutral body position:

Choose a well-padded chair that supports your back (especially your lower back), and allows your thighs to be parallel with the floor.

Keep your hands, wrists and forearms in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.

Keep your head in-line with the torso and at a level, balanced position (or just slightly forward).

Keep your elbows close to your body, bent at a 90- to 120-degree angle.

Keep your shoulders relaxed and upper arms hanging naturally next to your body.

Keep your feet flat on the floor or supported by a footrest.

To mitigate back pain resulting from sitting at a desk:

Move Around Often. According to the Mayo Clinic, your body can only tolerate being in one position for about 20 minutes before it starts to feel uncomfortable. About every 15 minutes, stand, stretch, walk around, or change your position for at least 30 seconds.

Reduce Repetitive Movements. Reduce unnecessary movements as much as possible by keeping items you use often within arm’s reach and using tools, such as a phone headset, to reduce repetitive movements.

Position The Computer Monitor Properly. According to OSHA, the monitor should be placed directly in front of you, but at least 20 inches away, the top of the screen should be at or below your eye level, and it should be perpendicular to any window in the room to reduce glare.

Look Away Often. Focusing on a computer screen for too long can lead to dry eyes and eye fatigue. Change your focus often by looking at a point in the distance, and blink regularly to keep your eyes moist.

Use A Document Holder. It should be at the same height and distance as your computer monitor.

To reduce stress, create a healthy work environment, and reduce back pain:

Keep Your Desk And Work Area Clean. Keyboards, phones, and other office equipment are breeding grounds for germs. Desks themselves can even harbor more bacteria than a toilet seat!

De-clutter Your Desk. Save yourself this mental strife by taking a few minutes each day to go through papers. Throw away those you don’t need and file those you do.

Don’t Keep Junk Food At Your Desk. Junk food can make you feel sluggish, tired or guilty. Instead, keep a supply of healthy snacks nearby to satisfy your hunger such as cut-up vegetables, a few nuts, fresh fruit, or a hard-boiled egg.

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