Neutral body positioning – a comfortable working posture which aligns your joints naturally – reduces stress and strain on muscles, tendons, and other aspects of the musculoskeletal system. This reduces your risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), including carpal tunnel syndrome. Optimal office ergonomics involves the following.
- Keep your hands and wrists straight and aligned with the floor.
- Keep your elbows close to your body and bent at an angle of 90 to 120 degrees.
- Relax your shoulders and keep your upper arms at your side.
- Hold your head level (no more than slight forward bend) and keep it in line with your torso.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees and thighs parallel to the floor. Put something under your feet if they do not reach the floor.
- Make sure you have sufficient back support from your chair and sit up straight (no more than a slight backwards lean).
Setting Up Your Desk, Computer, and Workspace
You can faithfully take all the above steps, but it may be for naught if you’re unable to align your body with your workstation. Below are some suggestions from occupational therapists as you’re setting up your workstation.
Keyboard & Mouse
Use an articulating (moveable) keyboard support that includes a palm support (not wrist). This lets you move it in the most comfortable position possible. Try to position it no more than a couple of inches above your thighs.
Keep the mouse near the keyboard so you don’t have to reach too far. Use your entire arm to move the mouse – don’t plant and pivot your wrist to move it, as this places stress on the joint.
Computer Screen & Other Objects
Make sure your computer screen is eye level and that it is center with the midline of your body. You shouldn’t have to move your neck much to view the screen. Tilt the monitor if necessary.
If you use a light, position it so it does not produce a glare and does not shine directly into your eyes. Otherwise, it might place stress on your eyes. Also keep any objects or paperwork nearby so you don’t have to reach too far.
Stretch your fingers, hands, arms, and torso periodically as you sit. At least twice each hour, take a minute or two to stand up, stretch your body and walk around. If you need to speak with a coworker, walk to her office instead of emailing her, if possible. Make it a point to visit the water cooler, rest room, copy machine, or other part of the office at least once an hour. Sedentary office workers may be at greater risk of heart disease and other medical conditions.
Workers’ Compensation for Office Injuries
Some workers may qualify for workers’ compensation if they suffer a musculoskeletal condition related to their job. Workers’ comp for these conditions may be more difficult to obtain, though, as employers or insurers may argue the condition is not work-related. Talk to an attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair: 888-436-9979.