When you look up at a monitor that is too high, the neck is forced to extend. This compresses the joints in the neck and causes fatigue in the muscles, which could lead to inflammation, pain and headaches. Conversely, you can also strain your neck by looking down at your monitor or by using a laptop screen for long periods. This poor position also promotes a slouched posture for the rest of the spine, contributing to upper and lower back issues.
How to fix it: Set your monitor at eye level so that your eyes match the top of the screen, approximately where the address bar is in your browser. If you have a laptop, consider either adding an external monitor or even better, use a full sized keyboard so that your laptop screen acts as the monitor. This will let you set your screen at proper eye height. Even a pile of books under the screen will do! Also make sure the screen is directly in front of you, not off to one side.
Slouching in your chair could mean that your chair is too high or too low. If the chair is too high so that your legs dangle, this can limit circulation to the legs and cause fatigue and contribute to varicose veins. If the chair is too low, the lower back ends up in a forward flexed position, contributing to disc issues and degeneration.
How to fix it: Set up an adjustable chair so that the hips and knees are at 90 degrees, as a starting point. This helps prevent flexion of the lumbar spine, keeping it in a neutral position. It is also important to move into different seated positions throughout the day, even putting your feet up and leaning back for a while is ok. Make sure to get up and stretch often.
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Often people stay in the same fixed position for hours on end. Even a “good ergonomic setup” will be detrimental if you stay there all day long.
How to fix it: Use a footrest under the desk, or even a small box (or yellow pages), to switch from planted feet to using the rest. This helps prevent lower back and leg fatigue.
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Having shoulders hiked up creates repetitive strain and painful adhesions and trigger points in the shoulders and lower neck. Also, not having an armrest to support your elbows some of the time, can lead to fatigue.
How to fix it: Have your starting position with your arms relaxed at your sides (upper arms parallel to the spine), with elbows at 90 degrees. Use adjustable armrests at a height that prevents shoulder hiking, and provides a rest position for the forearms. Variety is good here too, lower the armrests out of the way, for a change. This helps to prevent muscle strain in the upper back, shoulders and helps set up for good wrist positioning.
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Reaching repetitively throughout the day to a mouse that is farther away than need be contributes to trigger points and muscle tension and fatigue in the neck, upper back, shoulders and arms.
How to fix it: Have your mouse within a short distance from your keyboard by using a larger or extendable keyboard tray, or pulling it closer to you on the desk.
Keyboards that are too small (laptop keyboard) or at the incorrect height can contribute to repetitive strains such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis/golfer’s elbow and forearm strain.
How to fix it: Position a full sized (ergonomic) keyboard so that your wrists in a neutral position. Neutral wrists are such that the long bones of the hands are tilted only slightly upward from the forearm bones. The middle finger of the hand should be straight forward in line with the forearm, not bent outward or inward. This is preventive for carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries that show up with inflammation, pain and numbness or tingling.
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Cradling the phone between your shoulder and your face contributes to neck strain, upper back muscle adhesions, trigger points and inflammation in the neck joints.
How to fix it: If it is a handset, hold it with your hand. For multitasking, use a hands-free headset. This eliminates the problem leaving the neck neutral and both hands free to accomplish other tasks.
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