When the Computer is Causing Your Back Pain: 4 work space changes to save your spine.

How to set up your workstation to prevent and relieve neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain.

Image: Springfield Chiropractic Center

If you spend most of your day on the computer, proper ergonomics can save you a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.

People who spend 8 hours a day working on a computer have much higher rates of neck pain, back pain, and shoulder pain. Workplace injury statistics clearly demonstrate that there is a correlation between the amount of time spent in front of a computer and painful spinal conditions. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent these problems from occurring.

Proper ergonomics plays a key role in helping to mitigate much of the stress and pressure your spine and muscles experience while working on a computer. Here are several important things to consider when looking to make a change for the better. (Click on the image below for a printable version of my Computer Workstation Set-up Sheet)

Chiropractic recommendations for proper ergonomics.

1. Your Chair:

When selecting the right chair you must evaluate its height, backrest, seat, arm rests, comfort, and stability.

Height: The proper height of the chair will depend on your height, and the height of your desk. When sitting in the chair, your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should be at an angle just slightly greater than 90 degrees. If you need to raise the chair and your feet are no longer flat on the ground, use a foot rest to insure that your feet are resting on a flat surface.

Backrest: The backrest of your chair should have a lumber support and (at a minimum) be as high as your shoulder blades. It should be firm and have a slight recline, allowing the angle of your hip to be between 90 and 110 degrees.

Seat: The seat of your chair should be comfortable and supportive. When properly seated, the top of your buttock should touch the backrest of the chair and the back of your calves should not press into the front of the seat.

Arm rest: Your chair should have adjustable arm rests. With your shoulders totally relaxed, your elbows and forearms should gently rest against the top of the arm rest.

Comfort and Stability: The chair should be comfortable and not rock, wobble, or unintentionally move. The cushions should be firm and even. You should not feel like you are leaning to one side or the other.

2. Your Desk:

Adjustable desks are the best. They offer the ability to raise and lower the height of the desk, based on your needs. You can easily tailor the desk to fit your size. Adjustable desks also provide the option to go from sitting to standing during your work day. Companies like Varidesk, Uplift Desk, and even IKEA offer a variety of desks at different price ranges.

For a standard desk, your legs should fit comfortably under the desk. You should be able to cross your legs and move them without interference. The desk should be stable, flat, and provide ample work surface.

I DO NOT recommend using your kitchen table, pull up bar, or kitchen island as your desk.

3. Your Monitor:

The height and placement of your monitor is the single most important factor when it comes to upper back, shoulder, and neck pain. When sitting with good posture in a properly sized chair, the top of the monitor should be same height as the top of your forehead. The monitor should be located directly in front of you and should be approximately an arm’s distance from your face (aprox. 20”). The monitor should be placed at an angle of about 10 to 20 degrees upward.

If your monitor is too low, you can place it on top of a box or some books to raise it to the proper height.

***If you have a laptop computer, use a laptop stand to raise it up, and use a separate keyboard and mouse. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO MAINTAIN GOOD POSTURE WHEN USING A LAPTOP COMPUTER BY ITSELF.