How to Sit Correctly at a Computer

Regular computer users perform 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes each day. Under certain circumstances and for vulnerable individuals, frequent computer use that comprises awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage.

If you use a computer expansively (several hours each day), many experts recommend that you consider proper workstation layout and posture techniques to minimize your risk of developing injuries of the hand/arm, shoulder, neck, and back.

Overuse injuries develop over time, and may set in more swiftly if you spend long hours sitting at a computer at home, as well as at work.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a problem can include numbness in the fingers, sore wrists, lower back pain, or eyestrain (redness, dryness, soreness, temporary blurring of vision, and headaches).

You may also develop general aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, arms, back, thighs, and lower legs (postural fatigue) or persistent pain or discomfort in muscles, tendons, and other soft tissue (repetitive strain injury).

Preventing an Injury

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Avoid most computer-related overuse injuries. Some experts suggest that to reduce your risk:

•Use a correctly set-up workstation.

•Use accurate posture including keyboard and pointing device techniques.

•And most importantly, take regular rest breaks.

Setting Up Your Workstation

If you’re like most people, you are more dynamic and resourceful at a workstation that fits your body size.

Many experts suggest that the ideal workstation lets you work in natural (neutral) postures that may minimize strain on your body. A workstation mismatched with your body may force vulnerable individuals into uncomfortable postures such as hunching over, slouching, straining, or twisting.

Some believe that working for prolonged lengths of time in unnatural positions may be related to musculoskeletal injury. These experts note that problems with workstation set up for some persons may include using a chair that is the wrong height or size or does not support your back and incorrect height of work surfaces (desktop and keyboard), monitor, and source documents.

Chair

Many people find that a decent chair is one that adapts to their bodies. You may want to choose one that is stable and adjusts simply for height and tilt. Consider a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower (lumbar) back. Sit back in the chair when you work at a computer.

Experts recommend that you consider positioning your thighs horizontal with your knees at about the same level as your hips. Rest your feet comfortably on the floor or on a footrest if you need one.

Some experts recommend that your chair should also:

•Support your forearms with adjustable armrests that position your elbows near your waist.

•Have a padded seat with a pan at least one inch wider than your hips and thighs.

•Slope down slightly and allow a 2 to 3 finger breath-space between the seat cushion and the back of your knees when sitting.

•Contemplate a base with at least 5 points that roll on wheels (casters).