The majority of people in the work force are sitting long days behind a desk at a computer terminal. Studies show that more often then not, these work stations are not designed properly and this is the cause of various overuse strain injuries. I talked about the side effects of too much sitting in a previous article showing that sitting for long periods has serious negative health effects. Setting up a proper work station and taking time to get up from your desk can help prevent injury.
The most important piece of equipment in the office is your chair. The average person with a desk job can sit up to 120 hours a week and it is essential that your chair fits you properly. A chair that isn't set up properly can contribute to spinal pain and muscle fatigue. The more adjustable your chair is the better. Here are some tips for your desk chair:
- Make sure the seat pan height is adjustable to 42 to 51 cm (standard seat)
-The seat pan tilt is adjustable +3° to -4°
-The lumbar support height is adjustable 15 to 25 cm above seat
-The angle of the backrest to seat is adjustable 93-113°
-Upper edge of backrest is 45-55 cm above the seat pan (standard back)
-Your thighs should be roughly parallel to the floor
- Your feet should be flat on the floor, or a footrest is provided when necessary
-Your chair must have adjustable arm rests
Your desk is the most standard, and usually the least adjustable, piece of equipment in your workstation. Most desks are made at a height of 28 to 30 inches tall, which is a good sitting height for most people between 5'8" and 5'10" who use a conventional task chair. When sitting at your desk your feet and arms should be at roughly a 90 degree angle. If you are taller or shorter, be prepared to change your work surface height by adding or subtracting desk leg height. A foot stool can be used if you need to raise your chair so that you are sitting appropriately at a desk that is too high for your height.
Mouse and Keyboard
Wrist and elbow overuse conditions can arise from an improper keyboard and mouse set up. Your keyboard should be located directly in front of you so that you are not twisted or straining to use it. Here are some tips when setting them up:
-Upper arms hang relaxed at side during computer use
-Elbow joints are at about 90°
-Hands are in line with forearms when using keyboard and/or mouse
-Forearm is supported when using a mouse or other hand-held device
-Both keyboard and mouse height allow appropriate arm postures
Monitors come in all sizes now and often work stations have two of them. It is important to make sure your monitor is not reflecting a lot of light coming through a window or from nearby light fixtures. Other important factors when setting up your monitor include:
-The top of the screen is at eye-height (bifocal and trifocal wearers excepted)
-Viewing distance (eyes to screen) is 40 to 74 cm (about an arms length away)
-Monitor should be placed directly in front of the user
There is no perfect work station that fits everyone. It is important to be constantly adjusting your station and making sure that you get up and away from your desk. The addition of a stand up desk can be a great addition to help eliminate postural fatigue. A great link to a complete guide to setting up or changing your work station is:
Activity Fact: People who sit for more than 8 hours a day have a 64% higher rate of heart attacks, 2 to 3 times the rate of heart disease and diabetes. Keep Active!