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Is Your Desk Setup Hurting You?

By Mandie Martuzzo, PT

Did you know that most neck pain and headaches can be attributed to poor posture? Low and mid back pain can also be rooted in postural origins.  Wikipedia defines poor posture as “the posture that results from certain muscles tightening up or shortening while others lengthen and become weak which often occurs as a result of one’s daily activities.”

The positions where you spend most of your time can lead to postural changes that then promote dysfunction and pain. For most of us, the positions we are in most frequently are those we are in at work.

How you sit in your chair, your desk height, and computer set up all can affect your posture and sustained positions. How far you have to reach for things, the direction your head or body is turned, and how you talk on the phone all can make a difference.

Some of the symptoms of bad posture include:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • Potbelly
  • Head that leans forward or backward
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Back pain

Rounded shoulders encourage the head to come into a forward position, and the forward head position forces the muscles of your neck and upper back to attempt to counterbalance the force of holding up your head against gravity in an abnormal position.  The potbelly can also cause increased pressure at your low back as those muscles try to counterbalance the weight.

Some things you can do to avoid postural pain are to change your positions frequently, make repetitive tasks as symmetrical as possible, and avoid persistent movements to one side or constant rotation of the neck and back to the same side. An example of this would be looking back and forth at multiple computer monitors throughout the day which can often aggravate joints and soft tissues causing neck and back pain.

Good desk/computer ergonomics include:

  • Sitting all the way back in your chair, with the chair adjusted for height so that your feet reach the floor. Generally, your knees should be bent at about 90 degrees and hips at about 100 degrees
  • The computer keyboard or desk should be at the level of your hands when your shoulders are relaxed down and elbows are bent to 90 degrees.
  • Your computer monitor shoulder be at eye level and right in front of you.

Learn more on PhysioPartners YouTube channel, and if you need assistance, consider scheduling an onsite ergonomic assessment with PhysioPartners’ occupational therapist.

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