Fit to Drive Your Desk ?

Having completed a number of workstation assessments in the early part of this year, I have reflected on a number of common patterns among desk based workers. We’ll address one of these patterns in this blog.

This common pattern often occurs when the keyboard and mouse are set too far from the body, with the screen set too low. The resultant posture will contribute to ongoing pain or ‘tension’ in shoulders, arms, neck and upper back. Check your keyboard/mouse and screen position now – are you reaching? Is the top of your screen lower than your horizontal eye level?

Ideally the keyboard should be positioned so the elbows fall almost directly under the shoulders, with shoulders positioned under the ear and above the hips in a vertical line. The eyes should be looking on a slightly downward angle when focused on the middle of the screen.

Positioning the keyboard and mouse forward of the body results in a ‘reach’ where the elbows fall forward of the shoulder. From this setup, shoulders then tend to round to compensate and the head comes into a forward position (chin poke). This combination leads to greater than normal stress on regional musculature and increased pressure on the joints and nerves. Over a period of time this can result in chronic neck and shoulder pain as well as issues in elbows, wrists and hands.

This problem is solved by addressing the root cause – in this case ensuring a close to vertical alignment through the spine with the elbows dropping almost directly under the shoulders (think of a chicken ‘ tucking its wings in’). This also goes for those that use the mouse in the right hand – don’t let it escape to the far reaches of the desk space – keep it as close to your right elbow line as practical. The head should be sitting on top of your shoulders with the chin gently tucked in rather than poking out.

Sitting a bit straighter now?

Richard Trendle MSc, Exercise Physiologist

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