Improving Your Function (and Comfort) at Work

Dr. Madison Harpenau, Occupational Therapy Intern



Working all day can lead to physical effects on the body. Individuals who work primarily at a computer for their job are likely to complain of low back, neck, and shoulder pain (Robertson, Ciriello, & Garabet, 2013). Many individuals forget to consider their posture at their workspace is a factor that may contribute to their musculoskeletal discomforts.

When it comes to office ergonomics, standing desks are becoming the trend. While these desks offer the ability to stand rather than sit the whole day, they are not flawless. Standing desks have provided relief of chronic low back pain in individuals, however these desks were not used to stand 8 hours of the day (Ognibene, Torres, Eyben, & Horst, 2015). It is important to note that while sitting all day is not healthy for our bodies, neither is standing all day. Standing desks should be used with a balance of sitting as well (Ognibene et al., 2015).


As for the set up of your work space, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. When sitting at your computer, your eye gaze should be level with the top of your screen to reduce bending your neck. You should be in a relaxed position, not too close (scrunched up) or far (reaching or extending your arms) from your computer screen and keyboard. Your office chair should support your low back and neck. There are several solutions that you can add to your office chair if it does not properly support your back and neck. Your elbows should be supported by the chair arm rests, resting comfortably at a 90 degree angle. Your knees under your desk should also be at a 90 degree angle. Your feet should rest flat on the floor. If your feet are unable to reach the floor when sitting in your office chair, put some old books or a box under your feet to allow them to be supported. In terms of your keyboard and mouse, it is ideal to use an external mouse (for desktops and laptops) to reduce the strain placed on your wrists. Your keyboard should have very little slant to it to also reduce the strain on your wrists.


According to Saklani and Jha, improving the ergonomics of your office will increase your productivity (2011). Even minor adjustments to your work space could lead to less musculoskeletal discomforts, which can improve your work efficiency! The Washington Park Chiropractic team will be more than happy to help you identify other ways to improve your office work space if these suggestions are not enough!


References

Ognibene, G. T., Torres, W., Eyben, R. V., & Horst, K. C. (2015). Impact of a sit-stand workstation on chronic low back pain: Results of a randomized trial. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 20, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000000615

Robertson, M. M., Ciriello, V. M., & Garabet, A. M. (2013). Office ergonomics training and a sit-stand workstation: Effects on musculoskeletal and visual symptoms and performance of office workers. Applied Ergonomics, 44(1), 73–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2012.05.001

Saklani, A., & Jha, S. (2011). Impact of ergonomic changes on office employee productivity. International Journal of Management Research, 2, 41-56.


Madison Harpenau is a Doctor of Occupational Therapy student from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Madison is anticipated to graduate in August of 2019. She has completed two prior internships in the settings of outpatient pediatrics and inpatient rehabilitation hospital. Madison’s Doctoral Project is focused on Connecting Holistic Health Care Professionals; such as Chiropractic and Occupational Therapy. Her project is largely rooted in health and wellness promotion for all clients.

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