Set Yourself Up for Success: Workstation Tips & Strategies
Did you know that poor posture whether sitting or standing is the main culprit for increased muscle tension that can contribute to headaches, neck, shoulder, and low back pain, high blood pressure, fatigue and more? By making small adjustments to your workspace routine (chair, keyboard, mouse, movement) you can help decrease aches and pains and improve your overall wellbeing. Wouldn’t it be great to have no aches and pains, and still have energy at the end of your workday to do the things you enjoy?
Before I get into some tips to help you get started, I thought I’d share my personal story of low back pain. Several years ago, my job shifted from an active environment to an office environment where I was sitting at a desk all day. I got to the point that I could not stand still for any period without the feeling of my low back giving out. It became the norm for my back to go out at least 2x per year leaving me unable to participate in my normal daily tasks like grocery bags, picking up children, exercise, etc. What was different? I was sitting for LONG periods of time without getting up and moving. And, while I was sitting, I would lean forward, bend my knee, and sit on my foot, making my posture completely wonky. It got to the point that I thought I may have something seriously wrong with me.
Since I exercised every day; jog, bike, yoga, boot camp, and did back stretches frequently I didn’t believe that my issue could be muscle related. However, an MRI revealed that I did NOT have a serious condition, and in physical therapy we discovered that I had muscle imbalance that was causing my issues. Basically, sitting all day with bad posture weakened my hamstring (back thigh), glutes (butt) and outer thigh muscles and my abdominal muscles were no longer strong compared to my quadriceps (front thigh). I was shocked to hear these muscles were so weak since I could still perform certain exercises and yoga poses. It turned out I was subconsciously using other stronger muscles to compensate, essentially “faking it". So, what did I do to get better? I began taking TRX classes to improve core strength and transitioned to standing and moving more often. I haven’t had back issues since! And, as long as I pay attention to my posture, stand often and move, I’m good.
To Get Started on making small adjustments to your workspace, keep in mind the Big 4: Chair, Keyboard/Mouse, Monitor, MOVE!
- Chair: Adjust chair so that it is below or at knee height, thighs parallel to the floor with feet flat on the floor or on a footrest (box or ream of paper can work). Your lower and mid back should be well supported by the chair, avoid leaning in away from your chair back.
- Keyboard/Mouse: Adjust the height of the keyboard so it is at the height of the elbows, keeping your wrists straight. Mouse should be close by – avoid reaching too far away – with elbow in by your side.
- Monitor: Monitor should be at a comfortable reading distance. If normal vision or with RX sit looking forward, eyes at top of screen. Avoid neck and head leaning in to see. General rule is arm’s length from screen.
- MOVE! Take frequent ERGO Breaks. Research suggests 40 minutes sitting, 20 minutes standing every hour and continuing to rotate throughout the day is best. If possible, create a standing work area with monitor and keyboard risers (paper boxes can work as well) or sit to stand desk if available. Use the timer on your phone to remind you to get up and change positions or at least take a 30 second to 1-minute stretch or move break before sitting back down.
More Tips: There are many more tips to adjusting your workspace like minimizing the overhead or window glare on your screen, using document holders to avoid awkward head and neck postures, and using wrist/palm supports to facilitate neutral wrist angles and avoid pressure on hard desk edges. Below are two resources I highly recommend:
Sit to Stand Options and Adjusting your Workspace assistance is available! If you would like assistance adjusting your workstation or would like to try a standing desk contact me.
Posture Clinics are held at worksites across the County. Julie will be facilitating a clinic for Transit employees in July (open to transit/transit fleet employees only). Stay tuned for future clinics at a worksite near you!
If you need individual assistance with your posture and/or strengthening your core, personal trainers are available to work with you one-on-one to address your concerns. Adult health plan members receive their first 5 visits with a trainer at no cost to you.