Good computer posture starts with your posture when standing up. A sergeant major on a parade ground shouting at the troops “shoulders back, chest out, stomach in!” is actually encouraging good posture in the troops so that they avoid postural pain and can do their job efficiently.
When it comes to sitting at a computer other factors are involved but we still want shoulders back and a spine that curves backwards from the small of your back to your shoulders. Importantly, we really don’t need any tension however as that brings pain. How your arms are positioned in relation to your body and ensuring they aren’t twisted is crucial.
Even if you have a good posture, remaining in one posture for too long will cause certain muscles and tendons to fatigue and others to be under exercised. Regular breaks are vital but if you spend those breaks on your smart phone checking Facebook etc you may well have a poor posture doing that too! Being more physically active outside of work will exercise your muscles more generally and this will help protect you against some of the RSI dangers.
Computer posture and your seated position
Ergonomic specialists often say humorously that the best chair has upturned pins in it! Seriously though, the chair shouldn’t be the comfiest chair you have ever sat on. Being on the firmer side is good as it will encourage you to move about and stand up more. It has a job to do and it needs to have certain features as a minimum:-
- It should accommodate your size and weight fully without any squeezing
- The seat and back rest should be padded with rounded edges where it touches your back and thighs
- Adjustable height
- Adjustable rake so that you can recline the back by 10 to 20 degrees from vertical
- Adjustable lumbar support
Armrests can be a hindrance. If you do have them they should be height adjustable at a minimum and shouldn’t prevent you from bringing your chair close enough to your desk. Chairs with armrests that are part of the structure of the chair linking the back to the seat should always be avoided!
Computer desk and positioning your equipment
The ideal desk will have adjustable height and rounded edges with a separate adjustable height stand for your screen. Height issues can usually be fixed without expense by placing appropriate items underneath the legs or screen of course. It’s difficult to make a desk shorter without a joiner however! The test is whether your elbows are able to tuck into your side with your forearms level in front of you or not.
You should be able to sit comfortably at your desk with your computer equipment directly in front of you. You should be able to move your legs freely without them bumping into boxes etc underneath the desk. Your legs also shouldn’t be hanging freely below your seat and not touching the ground as that places too much pressure on your thighs; use a foot rest if necessary.
- Top of screen no higher than your eyes
- Upper arm should be by your side with your inner elbow just about touching your side
- Forearm should be near horizontal and directly in front of your side
- Wrists should be in line with your forearm and hand, not at an angle, when using keyboard and mouse
Keyboards and mice
We go into more detail with videos and images to explain the problems associated with conventional mice and keyboards. Conventional mice tend to cause your arm to twisted whilst also being tensed. Conventional keyboards with numeric and function keypads (for right-handed users) tend to push your mouse too far away. These are major causes of computer posture RSI conditions leading to neck pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, wrist pain…
Tools can help you in all aspects of your computer work
- vertical ergonomic mouse and compact keyboard
- software to monitor your posture exists using a webcam to spot when your posture ‘goes off’
- A pull-along laptop/office bag considerably reduces the twisting action on your upper back and shoulder area if you carry a shoulder bag with a laptop or even a substantial lunch box in it!
- Vibration and massage therapy can bring fast relief to RSI pain caused by tight muscles.
- Software to monitor your posture comes with appropriate stretch exercises and also actively monitors your posture.
- A telephone headset eliminates the strain placed on your neck, shoulder and arm, particularly if you hold a handset between your cheek and shoulder.
- Software that types for you gives the wrists, arm, elbow and neck a rest through being able to dictate emails, reports etc.
In all cases, we advise you seek a professional medical opinion (Doctor or Physiotherapist) if you are suffering pain that you feel is likely to be connected to computer use.