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Is Your Desk Setup a Friend or Foe to Your Health?

January 01, 2020

It’s a reality in America today—we spend a lot of time sitting. For most American adults, at least part of each work day is spent at a desk. Could your desk setup be at the root of your aches and pains?

The short answer is yes! If you’re sitting at a desk that’s not set up ergonomically, it could be a literal pain in the neck…or the back.

That’s because the human body is really not designed to spend hours and hours in a chair. But most of us do, with the average American adult sitting for six and a half hours each day. That number has steadily increased over the past few decades, rising by an hour between 2007 and 2019.

All of that sitting wreaks havoc on the body. So, what can you do to your desk setup to make it a little less hazardous for your health? Read on as we offer a few key guidelines.

The Basics of an Ergonomic Desk Setup
The best option, of course, is just not to sit so much! But that’s not a reality in the way we work today.

Fortunately, you can take steps to make your time sitting more comfortable and easier on your body. Let these five basic principles guide your desk setup:

Correct your posture. This one doesn’t sound like it’s about your desk setup, but it really is. One reason why so many of us experience pain after sitting for a length of time is that we aren’t sitting correctly.

Think about how you sit in your desk chair. Are you slouched over or leaning back? Yeah, not best practice! 

You need to find your natural posture. If you’re not sure what that even is, think about the way you sit in the car. Your feet are on the floor, your hands are in your lap (or on the steering wheel), your shoulders are somewhat relaxed, and your backside is behind you. 

That’s how you want to be sitting in your desk chair—so use this as the foundation of your desk setup.

Choose the right chair. Now, choose a chair that supports your natural posture. You want to adjust the height of the chair so that your feet are flat on the floor and your backside is behind you. 

Then adjust the height of the armrests until your arms rest gently on them, which relaxes your shoulders.

Carefully place the monitor. Your computer screen is a key component of your desk setup. Where it’s sitting can determine whether you can view the screen naturally, or if you’ll end up with a crick in your neck regularly.

The monitor or laptop screen should be placed directly in front of you, with the top of the screen at eye level. 

You also need to consider how far away from you the screen is. As with any screen, you don’t want it too close to your face. But likewise, you also don’t want it too far away. Sitting back in your chair, extend your arm—you want the tip of your middle finger to touch the screen.

You may also want to tilt the monitor slightly to avoid reflections and make it easier to view.

Keep the mouse and keyboard at arm height. Are you having to reach up or down to use your mouse or the keyboard? That may be causing you pain!

Instead, you want to arrange your desk setup in a way that your forearms stay parallel to the floor or pointed slightly downward when you’re typing or using the mouse.

Otherwise, you run the risk of developing issues like carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive use of the keyboard and mouse in a non-ergonomic position.

Get up and move. This one isn’t specifically about desk setup, but it’s probably the best thing you can do to help prevent aches and pains at work. 

Sitting and looking at a computer screen for longer periods of time can lead to everything from orthopedic health conditions headaches and dry eyes. So, no matter how your desk is set up, take regular breaks throughout the day to get up and move around. 

Your health will thank you!

Can’t seem to work the aches and pains out? West Tennessee Healthcare offers COMPREHENSIVE ORTHOPEDIC SERVICES from diagnosis through rehabilitation.