Proper posture when working at your desk (preventing work related injuries)

Proper posture when working at your desk (preventing work related injuries)

Many work injuries can be easily avoided if you put the time and energy into developing good posture and ergonomics.

What is good posture?

Posture is the position you place your body while standing, sitting or lying down.

Good posture keeps bones and joints in proper alignment so muscles are used efficiently. Good posture prevents backache, neck pain, muscle pain, strain, and abnormal wear and tear. It also decreases stress on joint ligaments, prevents the body from developing abnormally, prevents fatigue through efficient muscle use, and even contributes to a good appearance.

Developing Good Posture

Developing good posture will require you to train your body to sit, stand, walk, lie and conduct activities in positions where supporting muscles and ligaments are strained as little as possible.

Good posture requires good muscle flexibility, normal joint motion, strong postural muscles, balanced muscles on both sides of the spine, awareness of your posture, and conscious correction of your posture. Through practice, your body gradually replaces your bad posture with good posture.

Proper Standing Posture

Start by stretching the top of your head up toward the ceiling.

    • Your head should be held up straight and your chin should not be pushed forward.
    • Make sure your head is not tilted forward, backward or sideways.
    • Keep your shoulder blades back. Your knees should be straight.
    • Your earlobes should be in line with the middle of your shoulders.
    • Make sure your pelvis is not tilted forward or backward.
    • Tuck your stomach in.
    • The arches in your feet should be supported.

Proper Sitting Posture

        • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back.
        • Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
        • Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.
        • Your legs should not be crossed.
        • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
        • Your knees should be even with or slightly higher than your hips. If your knees are too low, use a footrest or stool.
        • Your body weight should be distributed evenly on both hips.
            Avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes at a time. You can use other sitting positions for short periods of time, but spend most of your sitting time in the position as described above in order to minimize stress on your spine.

When sitting and doing work on a computer, the monitor should be at eye level directly in front of you. You should not have to tilt your head or eyes up or down. When performing repetitive tasks like typing, see the tips on avoiding Carpel Tunnel Syndrome below.

Preventing back pain and injury

The most important thing to prevent back pain and injury is to develop good posture. This keeps the spine properly aligned. The lower back bears most of your weight, so proper alignment can prevent injury to vertebrae, discs, and other portions of the spine.

If you have back pain, you may need to develop better posture and learn how to lift and bend properly. Your workspace may need to be adjusted to keep you from slouching. You may also need to lose weight if you are too heavy for your height and frame. Extra weight can exponentially increase strain on the back.

Regular exercise is also important in preventing back pain and injury. People who are physically fit are more resistant to back injuries and pain, and recover quicker when they do have injuries than people who are less physically fit.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by excess pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This pressure causes pain and weakness in the hand.

The median nerve and the tendons that curl the fingers all go through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is narrow; any swelling can create excessive pressure on the nerve. This can be painful.

Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

            • First, it is important to keep your arm, hand, and finger muscles strong and flexible.
            • Avoid activities that bend or twist the wrists for long periods of time.
            • Use hand and wrist movements that spread pressure and motion evenly throughout your hand and wrist.
            • When performing an activity with repeated movement, change positions and switch hands frequently. Take breaks to give your hands some rest.
            • For activities such as typing and knitting, you should keep your forearms parallel to the floor or slightly lowered.
            • Your wrists and hands should be in line with your arms. Your wrists should not be twisted or bent for long periods of time.
            • When using a mouse or trackball keep your wrist neutral. It should not be bent. Any activity that requires the use of fingers and hands in the same repetitive movements should be done with your wrists neutral.
            • Keep your shoulders relaxed and not raised.
            • If you have to exert force as in chopping or cutting, keep your work at waist height or slightly lower.
            • Position your work so you can change your position periodically while staying in a comfortable posture.

If you find that certain work activities seem to be causing finger, hand, or wrist numbness or pain, stop the activity and talk to your human resources department. Discuss how it would be possible to perform the job activity in a manner that does not cause discomfort. Discuss if it makes sense to change your office equipment, perform different job assignments, or have an ergonomics evaluation of your workspace and procedures.

Don’t underestimate the importance of good posture! It can save you from many years of pain and injury.

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