Ergonomics: 5 Tips to Reduce Pain at Work
Updated August 8, 2021
So earlier this week I sent out an email talking about the importance of proper ergonomics at work, and how a few simple changes can have a significant impact on pain and tension in the low back, neck and shoulders.
In the email, I also included a link to a YouTube video that Ashley helped me make. I’ve included the video at the bottom of this blog post, just in case you missed it.
This video covers 5 quick and inexpensive tips that you can implement at work today (in the office setting).
Here’s a quick rundown of the 5 tips:
->> Tip #1: Make sure you have the right chair. This means that the chair isn’t so big that you can’t comfortably support your back and thighs, with your feet square on the ground. It also means that you’re able to adjust your chair up and down to achieve ideal sitting posture. Once you establish this ideal, comfortable posture, you’re ready to start fitting the rest of your workstation.
->> Tip #2: Use a footrest (if needed). If your worktop is high, or if you’re a little short, using a footrest is an easy way to help adjust your ideal posture. Again, you want your feet flat on the ground (or footrest), with your back and thighs comfortably supported.
->> Tip #3: Use a keyboard tray. A common theme for office workers is that the worktop is too high. Placing the keyboard and mouse on this surface can create an uncomfortable position for the forearms. A simple fix is installing a keyboard tray. And many of them also come with a little spot to place the mouse.
->> Tip #4: Use a headset. If you spend any length of time using a phone during your day, this may be a contributing factor to your neck pain. This is especially true if you’re trying to type while talking on the phone, because you’re probably scrunching the phone between the side of your head and your shoulder. If this sounds like you, investing in a telephone headset will likely save you a ton of discomfort and will allow you to keep your neck in good alignment while you work.
->> Tip #5: Adjust the distance to and height of your monitor. Your monitor should be roughly your arm’s length away. Depending on your eyesight, you may want to adjust your “sweet spot.” If you do this, you can maintain your comfortable posture. If you don’t, you’ll probably find yourself leaning forward as you squint in an attempt to read things on your screen. As for the height of the monitor, again we go back to maintaining a comfortable posture throughout your back and neck. The top of your monitor should be at your eye level, or just slightly below. You can imagine what it does to your neck position if your monitor is too high or too low.
So those were my 5 best tips for office ergonomic adjustments. If you really apply them to your workstation, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Now, the video goes into more details on those 5 tips. But it doesn’t cover a few more key ideas, which I want to share with you now.
First, one of the most important things you can do if you work sitting at a desk all day is to take “micro-breaks.” This means that every 15-20 minutes or so, you get up from your desk and walk around for a couple minutes.
Micro-breaks are excellent for improving the circulation throughout your body and relieving some of the stress and compression that have been building throughout your muscles and spine.
Another positive with these breaks is that you can take the strain off your eyes for a few minutes. Believe it or not, this eye strain can actually be a common cause of headaches if these types of jobs.
Second, all good posture starts and ends with your low back. And you low back posture starts and ends with your sitting posture in your chair.
Try something out real quick: try slouching in your chair, and then try to correct your neck position. Try bringing your neck into a neutral position that you were able to achieve when sitting upright.
What did you find? That’s right, it’s absolutely impossible to have good neck posture if your back posture is slouched!
So if you’re having pain in her neck and tension throughout your shoulders, start with the first tip and correct your sitting posture, starting with you back posture.
Lastly, I want to share one more cool idea with you. A lot of people I’ve been working with lately have started gravitating towards “sit-to-stand” workstations. This isn’t quite what I’d call an inexpensive fix, but it can be quite helpful at reducing pain, especially in the low back (one of the newer workstations costs around $350-400, it’s called a Vari-desk).
*2021 update: these sit-to-stand workstations are now much more affordable! Just do a quick search online.
The ability to alternate between sitting and standing can be dramatic for people and can literally take away nagging pains that have been hanging around for months.
While you may not be comfortable with the cost, maybe your employer will be sympathetic to your situation. Or maybe you want to consider it an investment in your health and save some time and money visiting your favorite physical therapy clinic (that’s us!) J
So between the 5 tips in the video and the 3 additional ideas I just outlined, you should be pretty well set to tackle your workstation on Monday!
But as always, sometimes these things are trickier than they seem. So if you have any troubles and you’d like some help, please feel free to shoot me an email at Luke@GordonPhysicalTherapy.com.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. If your pain has gotten so bad that you can’t sit comfortably at work and home, even for short periods, please give me a call soon. I’d be happy to help you arrange a FREE 30-minute “Discovery Visit” with one of our PTs to help you figure out the true cause of your pain. Just call the clinic at (509) 892-5442.
Oh, and here’s that video!
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