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Sit at a Desk All Day? Make Some Minor Adjustments to Promote Musculoskeletal Health

Man at Computer

With all the hours you put in at your desk, it’s worth taking the time to set it up in a way that supports your well-being. More than four hours of keyboard use is enough to put you at risk of developing discomfort, and many of us spend much more time than that in front of a computer every day! Considering ergonomics, the study of a worker’s interaction with their work environment, can help. These ergonomically friendly tips will put you on the right track:

  • Keep items that you use frequently during the day in a place where you can easily reach them. This includes items such as the phone, stapler, and reading and writing materials.
  • Try to maintain a neutral posture as you work, with your head level or tilted slightly downward, shoulders relaxed and elbows close to your sides, and your body leaning slightly back. Use the chair’s backrest.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor or flat on a footrest. Your feet should be supported when you are seated in your chair. Do not wrap your feet around the base of the chair or cross your legs.
  • Do not use your shoulder to cradle the phone against your ear. Using a headset can be helpful if you use the phone frequently or for an extended length of time.
  • When using a laptop for an extended length of time, you should use an external keyboard and mouse. Enlarging the font can also help prevent eyestrain.
  • Make sure whatever you’re working on is placed directly in front of you. Your monitor and keyboard should be located ahead of you, not off to the side. When you are seated, your monitor should be located 18-24 inches away. A glare filter is recommended if there is glare on the monitor.
  • Keep your wrists straight when using the keyboard and mouse. The keyboard and mouse should be located on the same level and right next to each other.

You can see demonstrations of these tips and more in our Ergonomics video on the HSS YouTube channel.

Remember that each person is unique and there is no single correct posture or arrangement of components that will fit everyone. If you find that you’re having aches and pains throughout the day, you may want to schedule an ergonomic evaluation with a specially trained therapist who can help you optimize the fit of your specific workstation.

Julia Doty is an occupational and hand therapist at the Joint Mobility Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. Julia has completed the Matheson Ergonomic Certification Program and offers complete ergonomic evaluations by appointment.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.