Safety / Injuries
How to Improve Posture at a Work Desk
Sitting may be unavoidable but using proper posture and limiting the amount of time you sit can help lessen some of its negative effects. Many of us sit at a desk for work about 8 hours a day. With so much time spent at this one location, it is important to think about how to improve posture at a desk. Have your clients (or you) follow these tips to set up a workspace that keeps them feeling great.
Adjust Your Office Chair
Start improving your workstation with your seated position because this will be the base for your ergonomic desk setup. Chair companies don’t design chairs specific to one person, so find an adjustable chair that can be tweaked to perfectly meet the needs of your body.
Looks for seats with the following adjustable features:
- Backrest height
- Backrest decline
- Seat height
- Seat depth
- Arm rest height
- Arm rest width
The backrest is the key component in protecting your spinal posture. You’ll want to select a chair with a curve and padding that provides lumbar support to help lower the intradiscal pressure in your spine. Circle back to our post on How does sitting impact my back posture for more on intradiscal pressure and poor posture. A backrest with adjustable height will ensure you’re able to set the lumbar support as high or low as you need to keep that curve in a healthy position. Another way to help relieve intradiscal pressure is to set your backrest in a slightly reclined position. Look for a backrest that can decline to about 120 degrees.
Next, focus on the chair seat. An adjustable seat accounts for one of the biggest variables between users: height. When you’re setting your seat height, try to get your feet flat on the floor and maintain a 90-degree bend in your elbows while typing. Keeping your feet flat will stop you from leaning forwards and losing the support of the backrest. Keep in mind that you can use a footrest if your feet cannot rest flat on the floor.
Once you’ve found the correct height, adjust the depth of your seat by sliding it forward or backwards. On some chairs you may be adjusting the backrest for this measurement, but you’ll still achieve the same results:
- Back in contact with the backrest
- Seat supporting most of your thigh without touching the backs of the knees
- Knees able to bend to 90 degrees.
Now you can check your arm rest options. You’ll want these to be adjustable, so you can position your elbows at 90 degrees while keeping your shoulders relaxed. Also, keep your elbows close to your body; if the arm rests are too wide, you’ll end up leaning over to find support, which can cause muscle fatigue and stress. Good elbow support can help reduce intradiscal pressure and stress on your upper back and neck.
Position Your Keyboard
While the chair is generally the most adjustable portion of an ergonomic desk setup, you may need to adjust the setup of your keyboard as well. The height should allow your elbows to be at the previously mentioned 90-degree angle, and your wrists should be in a neutral position. Make sure your knees can fit comfortably under the desk without bumping into it. If you cannot adjust your chair and desk enough accommodate a proper arm position, consider the use of a keyboard tray or alternative keyboards (adjustable tilt and keypad angles).
Position Your Monitor
The location of your monitors can affect the position of your head, so you’ll want to find a setup that keeps your head in a neutral position. If the monitor is too far away, you’ll find yourself leaning forward and squinting to be able to read the screen. Too close or too high and you’ll wind up tilting your head, compromising the position of your spine. Position your monitor approximately an arm’s length away. With your eyes looking straight ahead, you should be looking at the top of the screen or just above it. Again, if you cannot achieve this setup by adjusting your chair or desk, find alternative solutions: use a monitor with a shorter base or add a stand to raise it to an appropriate height.
And remember, even after you’ve made all possible adjustment to create an ergonomic desk setup, sitting is still a less than optimal position for the long-term health of your spine. Always be on the lookout for new and better ways to support a healthy lifestyle.
- Set reminders to get up and move.
- Use a standing desk.
- Stand up when you’re taking on the phone.
- Schedule walking meetings with your coworkers.
After your client sets up their workspace in a way that helps their posture, they still might have some movement dysfunctions or symptoms related to sitting. You can help them by implementing great corrective exercise strategies that will reduce knee, low back, and shoulder pain. Alleviating pain through great movement is a big value add for trainers. Learn more about this type of training with the Corrective Exercise Specialist program.
Workstation Components - Chairs. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2018, from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/components_chair.html
Workstation Components - Keyboards. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2018, from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/components_keyboards.html
Workstation Components - Monitors. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2018, from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/components_monitors.html
As trainers, we know upper back tension is rampant among clients. In this article, we explore things that can lead to tight muscles in the neck and shoulders and what to do about it. We also give you a great sharable “How To” for your clients.
By now, most of the fitness world knows our society spends too much time sitting and the corresponding impacts on posture and movement. This article helps you break down how it happens and what you and your clients can do about it. Then, we give you a sharable resource you can give to your clients to help them set up their work space in a better way. Check out the latest from ISSA here.
Corrective Exercise Specialist
The ISSA's Corrective Exercise Course will help you learn how to identify and correct the most common movement dysfunctions that you are likely to see in a wide range of clients, from the weekend warrior to the serious athlete. Both health care professionals and certified personal trainers can benefit from this distance education course, learning more about how people move incorrectly and how to guide them to correct those dysfunctions.
Please note: The information provided in this course is for general educational purposes only. The material is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider regarding particular medical conditions and needs.