Whether it’s called carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injury, or cumulative trauma disorder, wrist, hand, elbow, shoulder, neck and back injuries continue to be an almost unavoidable plague for workers using computers in manufacturing, service and office settings. The latest statistics show that two-thirds of workers will experience a repetitive stress injury as a result of the work they do everyday, costing employers millions in lost time and medical expenses. Ideally we should all try to limit the number of hours we spend plugging away at the keyboard, but unfortunately for most of us that is not an option.
However there are a number of small steps that everyone can take to help to protect your body and prolong your working life. With just a few simple adjustments you can prevent taking unnecessary medications or even surgeries. We have listed some general ergonomic recommendations below, however because everyone has their own personal needs, we recommend having your spine checked by a professional to determine what your specific ergonomic needs may be.
The single most important change you can make without too much difficultly is to ensure that your computer monitor is at eye level or even slight higher to ensure that you are not looking downward all of the time. The monitor should be about 18-30 inches away and positioned along with the keyboard directly in front of you. Frequently used items such as a mouse or phone should be placed within an arms reach, and if possible a headset should be used for the phone.
As for chair recommendations, a chair height that allows for the proper upper body position is of the utmost importance. Your chair should have adjustable arm rests that allows for your shoulders to stay relaxed and your elbows resting at a 90 degree angle, with your knuckles, wrist and top of the forearms forming a straight line. Your feet should be flat on the floor and if the height of your chair does not allow this, a foot rest should be used. Your chairs’ backrest should provide firm support for the inward curve of the lower spine (lumbar) and outward curve of the upper spine (thoracic).
Lastly, it is important to monitor the amount of time you spend sitting at your desk. It is important to take at least a short break every 30 minutes, even if you simply stand up and stretch your back, neck and shoulders for 30 seconds. This brief rest will also provide your eyes with the break they require as well.
If these steps do not resolve the symptoms you are feeling a short course of chiropractic care or physical therapy can quickly resolve problems caused by repetitive stress injuries. If these injuries go neglected or untreated for a prolonged period of time, they may worsen enough to require surgery.