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Sheltering Arms Blog

Best Desk Alignment to Avoid Injury


Posted on: January 30, 2020 by Jenny Lankford

By: Roxanne Williams, PT, DPT, CWCE

Do you leave the office at the end of the day feeling stiff with back, neck or wrist pain? It seems illogical, but you can actually suffer an injury such as carpal tunnel, tendinitis or muscle strains while sitting. However, ergonomic strategies can improve posture alignment, reduce time spent in the same posture, reduce repetitive motions and limit extreme ranges of motion to reduce your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder.

Try these strategies every few hours for posture variety:

  • Set reminders or timers on your calendar, phone or watch to change positions throughout the day;
  • Switch between your computer mouse, track ball and touch pad;
  • When practical, switch between sitting and standing; and
  • If your work includes repetitive tasks, try to switch tasks at least every few hours to achieve work task variety.

The perfect desk positioning sounds simple, but the verdict is still out on proper posture relating to seating, wrist position and work station set up. Research suggests there is no perfect set up, but rather that holding postures for long periods of time can be stressful regardless of alignment – gravity can compress joints, muscles can contract and tendons can be tensed while we hold ourselves still lost in our work. Changes in posture can be utilized without reducing your productivity or requiring the use of costly adaptive gear for you or your workstation.

Try these desk and computer modifications:

  • Chairs: adjustable chairs are recommended to allow regular changes in seat height and tilt to vary posture;
  • Monitors: place directly in front of you or arrange yourself in front of the monitor during long periods of reading/computer work, not off to one side;
  • Keyboards: it is best for height/tilt to be adjustable to allow regular change for variety;
  • Support padding: a gel pad is recommended to support upper extremities in front of the keyboard and mouse;
  • Desk layout: bring your work materials close by (i.e. phone, mouse, documents) to reduce reaching distances and frequency;
  • Documents: are best kept in a document holder that can be moved into a variety of locations near your monitor to reduce repetitive pinching and holding and allow for a more neutral neck position while reading;
  • Phone usage: A headset is preferable to a handset and sandwiching the phone between your neck and shoulder is not recommended;
  • Writing instruments: padded surfaces on your pens and pencils reduce pinch forces; and
  • Breaks: look at a target far away and alter your posture, stretching briefly.

While experts continue to search for the perfect desk and computer set up, we can make these helpful changes to be considerate of our bodies. Preventing musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace is in your best interest as well as the best interest of your employer!

Did you know Sheltering Arms offers a full spectrum of industrial rehabilitation services for those who have sustained on-the-job injuries? Click here to learn more about these services.

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