The allure of the internet and the demands of work have many of us spending inordinate amounts of time hunched over our desks and staring at computer monitors. Add stress to the equation, and the outcome is likely to be complaints of neck or back pain, headaches, jaw pain or repetitive stress injuries (such as carpal tunnel syndrome). Here are some simple steps you can take to launch a preemptive strike and prevent the computer from winning.
1. Sit upright. Good posture is key, but it’s easier said than done. Until you are used to sitting erectly, the muscles of your low, mid and upper back may feel tired.
2. Use a lumbar (low back) support or ergonomic chair that has one built in.
3. Set the height of your (adjustable height) chair relative to your desk so that when you sit with upright posture, your forearms rest comfortably on the desktop. If your chair is too high, you will naturally slump forward. If it is too low, you will have to hike your shoulders and overuse your upper trapezius muscles (the muscles you can see and feel when you shrug).
If you are on the short side, and your feet don’t rest on the floor when you set the chair height correctly, put something under them to bring the floor up to you instead of lowering your chair.
4. Use a headset to avoid cradling the phone to your ear in order to free up your hands to type or write. Prolonged positioning with your head tilted to the side will inevitably lead to increased tension in the muscles and pain.
5. Position your computer keyboard and monitor directly in front of you. For those looking at multiple screens, this is an obvious challenge.
Spending more time looking straight ahead and less time with your neck rotated to one side will help you avoid neck pain.
6. Set the height of the monitor(s) so that when you sit erectly, your eyes will be focused on the center of the screen. This will allow you to scan the monitor without having to nod your head.
7. Keep your mouse close enough so that you can avoid reaching too far to use it.
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