Working at a computer desk with poor posture for long periods of time can be a source of aches and pain in your neck, back, shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Over time this can lead to damage to tendons, muscles, and nerves from repetitive tasks.
To help prevent injuries when using a computer it is important to check your sitting posture, positioning of equipment, technique, and time spent at the desk.
Adjust the chair height so that your elbows, hips, and knees are bent at 90 degrees and the backs of your knees do not touch the front edge of your seat.
Adjust the backrest to support the normal curvature of your lower back. Place a rolled up towel behind the small of your back if this cannot be adjusted.
Sit upright with your buttocks at the back of the chair and your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and arms close to your body with forearms parallel to the floor and wrists straight. Adjust the armrests and angle of the keyboard to achieve this.
Position the computer screen an arm’s length away and keep the top of the screen below eye level and directly in front of you.
Eliminate glare by adjusting and tilting the screen and ensure there is no light source directly behind it.
Use a document holder or prop your work close to the screen and at the same eye level to avoid having to slouch or twist your body
Keep the keyboard and mouse centred and at the same height
Use a wrist pad on the keyboard or mouse to reduce stress through the joint and allow your wrists to rest
Move the mouse with your whole arm not just your wrist
Avoid gripping the mouse tightly or using too much pressure to click or type
Occasionally look away from the screen and remember to blink to reduce eye strain
Take a break every 30 minutes to do neck, back, shoulder, and wrist stretches
Get up and walk around every hour to limit the amount of time spent at the computer
Switch tasks regularly to change the load on your body
It is important to maintain your physical activity level especially after a long day working on a computer. Participate in activities that help improve strength, cardiovascular health, flexibility, balance, or relaxation.
If you are starting to feel a constant or increasing weakness, numbness, pain or discomfort in any part of your body while sitting at your computer, act early. See your physiotherapist who will assess and treat your injury and provide you with appropriate information to prevent it from happening again.
Disclaimer: The above information is intended for general information only and is not meant to replace the individual assessment or advice provided by your physiotherapist.
Adrian Salonga is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor’s degree of Medical Rehabilitation in Physical Therapy.