Help! My desk is hurting me!
A recent study by Queen’s University, Belfast, indicated that almost as many as 70,000 deaths a year in the UK are caused by a sedentary lifestyle. That is nearly 12% of all deaths. The cause isn’t as simple as the nation turning into lazy exercise-phobes.
Take a look at the UK economy; it is largely driven by service-based industries, rather than the manufacturing industries of the past. This means far more people are less active during their working day, spending a large portion sitting at a desk. This in itself can lead to a whole host of health problems – including to back, neck and shoulders – largely caused by poor posture and desk positioning.
I spend a lot of hours sitting down. How does this affect my posture and body?
When you see the effect that sitting for long periods has on the body, you might want to revise your sitting patterns. Sitting is considered the new smoking!
- Humans were built to stand, our cardio-vascular system and bowels are healthier when not sitting
- Movement encourages our muscles to digest the fats and sugars we eat reducing risk of obesity and diabetes
- Prolonged sitting weakens important muscles that support our spine
- Sitting in 90 degree angles causes us to slouch, keeping your spine misaligned;
- Neck strain due to poor workstation set-up, such as monitors not at eye level;
- Hip misalignment due to crossed ankles or legs;
- Wear and tear on your spinal discs.
Being sedentary for too long is also thought to slow your metabolism, which in turn affects your body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. If that wasn’t enough, studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and even early death.
Does your desk posture sound like this?
As you’re reading this, have a quick scan of your own seated posture (assuming you are seated). Perhaps you are slightly hunched over, peering down at a screen with your legs crossed. Or sitting with your arm outstretched towards your mouse, head turned to one side to read the screen and body leaning over your keyboard? If any of these sound familiar, you need to reset your desk ergonomics, from the way your equipment is set out to the position of your chair.
This is how your desk posture should be!
The ideal desk posture start with maintaining the arch in your lumbar spine, feet flat on the floor (knees slightly lower than hips), arms bent 90 degrees at the elbows and tucked close to the body with wrists resting in alignment on the desk. Your monitor should be directly in front of you, with the top of the screen at eye level, your mouse within easy reach and your keyboard a few inches from your body to allow your wrists to rest in front of it. All the equipment you regularly use should be in easy reach too.
There are various pieces of desk equipment to help improve your ergonomics, including sit-stand desks, monitor stands, wrist rests, lumbar supports and adjustable chairs – at the very least you need a chair with adjustable height, tilt and arms, if applicable.
What can I do to prevent pain at my desk?
The easiest thing we can all do is to take regular breaks from sitting. Simply standing up every 30 minutes and moving around can alleviate a lot of the pressure. Regular exercise can be hugely beneficial as it strengthens your muscles but this too can be counteracted by sitting too long. Incorporate more standing into your day – stand while taking phone calls, stand up for some of your commute, walk to a colleague’s desk instead of sending an email and take your turn at making the tea, even consider a walking meeting with colleagues where possible. Try not to spend too much of your leisure time sitting down either – don’t sit slumped in front of the TV or laptop all evening. Perhaps you could swap some TV time for exercise?
Acknowledging poor desk posture is the first step towards remedying it. Small changes can have a huge benefit so check out your desk positioning today and if you work for a large company, this should be part of their Health & Safety procedure.
If you need help with your desk set up, give us a call on 020 8316 5316 as this is something we can help with. We can come to your office and help you and your colleagues with your desk ergonomics.