Computer Ergonomics 101 to Reduce Pain and Strain

Facebook and Facetime and Doxy, oh my!  Quarantine or no quarantine, there is no doubt that we are all spending more time staring at our computer screens.  Is all this sitting and staring at your screen contributing to your pain levels?  It's quite possible.
Due to all this screen time and sitting, we have all likely experienced at least one of the following: stiffness or pain or numbness/tingling in the shoulders, neck, arms, wrists, hands, fingers, back, buttocks, legs, feet, heck even our eyes!
 
Certainly there are some great options like adjustable standing desks, under the desk bike or treadmill, expensive ergonomic chairs.  Well, let me save you some sticker shock and suggest some tweaks on the cheap that can help relieve some of your preventable discomfort.
 
1. Sit up straight!  Just like mom use to yell.  (she was right, you know).  You'd be surprised how much a well fitting, comfortable chair can help.  Adjust your chair height.  Not too high, not too low... when you're sitting your knees should be at a 90 degree angle and you should be able to place both feet flat on the floor.  If your chair is not adjustable, try sitting on a cushion or place one of those many amazon prime boxes under your feet to adjust ... until it's just right.
 
2.  Don't slouch!  Try adding a pillow to your lower back to help you sit up taller.  A pillow or even a rolled up towel can help encourage you to not hunch, slouch, or bend across your mid and lower back.  If you can't get that pillow or towel to cooperate, there are some great lumbar support pillows that can also be used in your car.
 
3.  Look me in the eyes!  Adjust your monitor to be at about eye level or slightly below your line of sight.  Position the monitor at a distance that you don't have to lean forward, which stresses your neck and shoulders in the process.  Document holders are wonderful to help keep reference material ideally located above the keyboard and below the monitor.  These modification can help reduce eye strain, a common source of headaches, as well.
 
4.  Eeek, a mouse!  If you're working on a touch pad or laptop, you may want to look into purchasing an external keyboard and/or mouse.  These can help keep your arms, wrists, and hands in better position and natural alignment.  Ideally, your elbows should be bent with your arms able to comfortably rest on your desk.   Keyboards and mouses come in all different sizes and shapes, and you may just find a mouse that has become your new best friend!
 
5. Embrace your space!  Reduce stress and make your area comfortable, calm, and enjoyable.  Add some foliage, open windows (weather permitting, of course), keep it clean, add natural light.  Consider lower wattage light bulbs or "soft" light.  Position your light source or use window blinds to avoid glare or direct light, or try an anti glare screen to prevent eye fatigue and strain.   Some nice, quiet background music, maybe?  Stay hydrated!  Don't be a dehydrated zombie staring at your screen!  May I suggest a water cooler?; I mean who wouldn't enjoy readily available, cool, fresh water!
 

6.  Take a break!  You deserve it!   Give your eyes, your concentration, your tush a "reset" even if it's just for a moment or two.  So, don't just sit there!  Get the blood circulating and stand up, move around, take a bathroom break, pet the dog, walk to the kitchen (kudos to you if you walked past the refrigerator).  You feel better, right?  Now that you've made some (or all!) of these modifications, hopefully you are more comfortable.  So now you can get back to your computer and continue whatever you were doing; productive or not, I won't judge :)

Author
Nathan Franke, PA-C Nathan was raised in Nebraska and received his undergraduate degree from University of Nebraska. He furthered his studies and completed his Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Georgia. He then went on to work as a clinical exercise physiologist in cardiac rehabilitation for seven years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nathan decided to climb the clinical ladder and advanced his education and completed a Master's in Physician Assistant Studies from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona. Nathan has extensive experience in the field of spine and pain management for a combined 8+ years. He has assisted in surgical spine cases, in addition to his current focus on spine and pain management. Outside of the office, Nathan enjoys time with family (and pet), exercising, and taking advantage of Arizona's great weather and spending time outdoors.

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