The majority of people we see as patients have a desk jobs. In fact, according to an article written in 2021, 80% of Americans work a desk job. If you can relate, this article is for you. Keep reading for general ergonomic tips to prevent discomfort or even injury as well as 4 simple stretches you can do while working at your desk.
Let’s start broadly, shall we? First up, ways to incorporate more movement into your day:
Drink lots of water, the more water you drink the more you will need to use the restroom. More trips to the restroom mean more times out of your chair, away from your desk, and more total steps you will accumulate throughout your workday.
Similarly, if you are going into an office or running errands during your day, purposefully park further away to increase your total number of physical steps taken within your day.
Try to stand or walk during work calls. If you have to be on camera, try standing during the meeting. If you are mostly listening, try walking around your office, your home, or your home office while you listen to your calls.
Bring awareness to your postures throughout the day. Once you are aware of how you are positioned at your desk you can more easily change it. Remember, too much of anything can be a bad thing so staying in one position all day will contribute to feeling tight, creating imbalances, and even pain. Some ideas on how to vary your posture include switching which leg you have crossed over the other, stand up, sit down, sit with both feet flat on the floor, sit crossing your ankles over one another instead of your thighs, etc. Just keep it moving and changing throughout your day.
If nothing else set a timer for every 45 minutes. When it goes off, stand up, stretch, or take a little walk. Try not to remain stationary for longer than an hour at a time.
There is no such thing as a bad position, but the best position is your next position.
Next up, is ergonomics. How can you make your workstation work for you?
Ideally, you want to have your joints at 90 degrees, your feet should be flat on the floor creating a 90-degree angle at your ankle. Your seat height should be such that your hips and knees are both at 90 degrees. Your keyboard should be close enough to you that your elbows can rest naturally at 90-degrees by your side. For some, this may mean investing in a Bluetooth keyboard. Lastly, adjust your screen height so that your chin and your neck also form a 90-degree angle.
When seated, make sure you can feel yourself sitting on your sit bones (ischial tuberosities). You should sit in a way that your weight is evenly distributed right to left and directly over your sit bones. This is easiest to accomplish if your feet are flat on the floor. Sitting in such a way will also ensure that you are sitting upright as opposed to slouching in your chair.
Many of you work with multiple computer monitors at your workstation, a few tips for that. If you look at both screens equally, set them up at approximately 45-degrees to one another. This will force your head to be on a swivel throughout your day. If you typically focus on one screen throughout the day, make sure that that primary screen is directly in front of you and the other is off to one side. Kick that up a notch and switch which side of your main monitor your secondary monitor sits on regularly, weekly if you can. If your second screen is that of your laptop, make sure to elevate it. They have great laptop stands these days, here is one you can find easily on Amazon.
If you are in the standing desk club, lucky you! However, standing is not inherently better than sitting. Be sure to still strike a balance between sitting and standing for a few hours at a time in each position. Also, just because you are standing does not make you exempt from finding ways to move throughout your day. Consistent movement and constantly varied positions will help you fight off postural stresses best. We often suggest to our patients who have standing desks that they elevate them at the end of their workday, this way they start their next day standing. We have heard from those with standing desks, that it is easier to lower it into a sitting height during the workday than it is to stop your workflow and elevate it to a standing height.
Even if you implemented all of these tips from above, you may still have moments of stiffness or discomfort related to your desk job. Since that is the case, we wanted to leave you with a few stretches that you can do while at your desk to continue to improve your comfort and stave off the long-term effects of postural stress.
Upper Back Stretch
Lower Back/Hip Stretch
Lastly, despite what most people think you don’t improve your posture by consciously altering your posture during your workday. This takes intention and concentration that you don’t have while on a long call or using your brainpower. Improving posture is best done through strength training postural muscles away from your desk. This way your muscles have a chance to develop strength and endurance to hold you in better postures throughout your day, without your conscious effort. If you need help in this area, you may want to consider reaching out to a personal trainer or asking for more information at your next visit.