Many desk-based jobs involve significant amounts of time spent sitting. Many injuries will be provoked by prolonged activities such as sitting, long periods of typing/mousing or repetitive neck movements. For this reason, it is important that our desk space is set up correctly to help minimise risk of associated pain through ensuring good posture at work.
There are three main aspects of our work space that need to be set at the correct height to promote more neutral and supportive postures throughout the body.
This is based on two main components; foot contact and the hip to knee angle. Feet need to have good contact on the floor (or a foot rest) to ensure you are getting adequate support through the legs. Additionally, without this contact through the floor, you are more likely to end up sitting forward in the chair away from the back rest which commonly results in lower back pain. It is important that the knee sits slightly lower than the hip so the muscles that run through the upper leg aren’t shortened which can contribute to lower back pain.
This is based on the angle created at the elbow; ideally the height of your wrist should be just below the height of your elbow. If your desk sits too high the wrist will be higher than the elbow. When this is the case we hitch the shoulders to allow the hands to move more freely while mousing and typing, which overloads the neck and shoulder muscles and can contribute to neck and shoulder pain. This is one of the most common mistakes people make when setting their desk height. Alternatively, if the desk height is too low this increases the angle of the elbow which may contribute to neck, shoulder or arm pain from an increase in neural tension. This position also increases the angle of the wrist which may lead to wrist or elbow pain from prolonged activation of the forearm muscles. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog about keyboard and mouse position and the implications they can have on arm, shoulder and back pain.
The height of your monitor is commonly set incorrectly; most commonly positioned too high. Ideally the top of your monitor should be in line with your eye level; this is because we tend to use the top 1/3 of the screen for the most part when working at the computer. With your eye level in line with the top of the monitor this promotes a slight nod of the head/neck when using the top 1/3 of the screen, bringing your neck into a more neutral spine position. If the monitor sits too high we tend to tilt the head back to view this same part of the screen, which loads the upper part of your neck and can result in pain and/or headaches. Alternatively if the monitor is too low, this increases neck flexion which may lead to an increase in tension of the neck muscles and neck pain and/or headaches.
It can often be tricky getting these measures to the correct height on your own. If you are unsure if your work space is set up correctly or you are experiencing pain or exacerbation of a pre-existing injury, you may benefit from organising a work station assessment from a qualified health practitioner to ensure your work space is set up in the best ergonomic position for your body.