How to Set-up Your Desk
In the previous post, we discussed how to avoid putting undue stress on your spine by adopting a neutral posture when sitting. Now, we’ll optimize your workstation. The goal is to make sure that the monitor, mouse and keyboard all work to your advantage, because the layout of your desk and the devices you use every day will either support or stress the sensitive tissues of your neck and back.
If you are suffering from headaches, neck pain or shoulder pain but not sure why, consider this:
For every inch your head is forward, your upper back and neck muscles have to hold an extra 10 lbs (4.5 kg). This forces the muscles near the base of your skull to remain in constant contraction, putting pressure on the three sub-occipital nerves. This nerve compression may cause headaches at the base of the skull or mimic sinus (front and forehead) headaches.
By taking a few minutes to adjust your work area so that it’s ergonomically suited to your body, you can prevent aches and pains from turning into serious or chronic injuries.
So, let’s look at your desk:
Monitor & Documents
Most people — about 90 percent of us — work with our monitors too low. Therefore:
- When sitting properly in your chair and looking straight ahead, you should be looking at the middle of the top third of the screen. (If you have a Word document open, you will be looking at the top line.)
- Viewing distance should be an arm’s length away, or approximately 20” – 35” from the screen.
Keyboard & Mouse
Keep your wrists in a neutral position. Over-extending the wrist is the most common mistake and can easily be avoided by utilizing wrist supports in front of the keyboard and mouse. However, the first step is to flip the tabs underneath the keyboard back in. They are useless and should not exist; as your keyboard should be flat against the table or even be slightly negatively reclined.
Your workstation and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
A major concern with improper keyboard and mouse use is the development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), a potentially crippling condition. CTS is the cause for the highest number of lost work days when compared with all injuries and illness combined. It may require surgery. Yet despite a 90 percent success rate, surgery means that you will be spending one or two months in a splint. And unfortunately, CTS has a high recurrence rate too, between 15 and 20 percent.
Posture is dictated by our hands and our eyes, and our eyes can lead us astray.
- Keep the documents you are reading in close proximity to avoid excessive movement of the head and neck.
- Aim to limit neck flexion, rotation and repetitive eye movements.
Optimizing your workstation takes only a few minutes out of your workday, but the benefits will be long lasting.
- Keep your keyboard flat, or even at a slightly negative tilt. Never flip up the tabs at the back of the keyboard. (The tabs are useless and only generate excessive extension of the wrist.)
- Mouse should be at or below the height of the keyboard, and close to it.
- Use palm supports to help eliminate risk factors.
Dr. Justin Guy, Oakville Chiropractor