Many people have been working from home for the last year.
Working from the kitchen table next to the kids as they do virtual school.
Or setting up a makeshift workstation from the coffee table in the living room.
Some are lucky enough to have home offices, but many never anticipated they would be getting quite this much use.
Although these setups might work on a temporary basis, working long term without an workstation set up ergonomically can lead to injury.
As a local physical therapist, we see many patients who now require orthopedic physical therapy treatments for injuries associated with long hours working at a desk.
Today we’ll look at the importance of an ergonomic desk, as well as how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, and other injuries whether you are working from home, or heading back to the office.
What Is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of how humans interact with elements of a system, and the design principles to optimize performance and well being.
In other words, it’s design which creates an optimal work environment.
Awkward postures such as needing to twist your neck to view a monitor, as well as repetitive motions, can put you at risk for ergonomic injuries and musculoskeletal disorders.
Why Is Ergonomics Important?
Practicing proper ergonomics can help to prevent musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, repetitive strain injury, and lower back pain.
The costs associated with setting up an ergonomic workspace may seem high initially, however over the long term it can help to:
- Improve the safety culture of an organization
- Result in higher productivity
- Lower costs associated with time off for injury and illness
- Lead to better quality work
How To Set Up An Ergonomic Work Space
Every work environment has different factors which need to be taken into consideration to make it more ergonomic.
And although most people don’t think of sitting at a desk all day as a risky activity, a poorly set up work station can lead to issues such as eye strain, and musculoskeletal issues.
Today we are going to look at the factors to consider when setting up an ergonomic desk, in order to minimize the risk of injury.
1. Positioning Your Chair
A chair should offer spinal support.
Although your kitchen chair might be great for meal time, it’s probably not going to offer the support you need to be sitting in it all day.
The seat should be at a height which allows your feet to rest flat on the floor, or on a footrest while your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Armrests should be positioned so that your arms can rest on them while keeping shoulders relaxed.
2. Positioning Your Desk
The space under the desk should allow enough room for your feet, legs, and knees.
A desk which is too low and doesn’t offer enough space can be raised by placing blocks under it.
If the desk is too high, having an adjustable chair and a block to place your feet on can help keep your arms and legs in proper alignment.
3. Positioning Your Keyboard & Mouse
The mouse and keyboard should be positioned within easy reach, at the same level.
They should be at a height which allows for your upper arms to stay close to the body and your wrists to remain straight.
It can help reduce wrist strain to occasionally switch which hand you use to operate the mouse.
4. Positioning Your Screens
Your monitor should be approximately an arm’s length from your face, slightly below eye level.
If you have to tilt your head too far up or down, this is likely a sign you need to adjust your screen height.
Keep your monitor directly in front of you so that you don’t have to twist and turn to see it, as this can lead to neck and back strain.
Individuals who wear bifocals should have the monitor slightly lower.
5. Positioning Other Frequently Used Objects
Are you on the phone a lot during your workday?
Or perhaps you have materials you need to reference often, or maybe you use your stapler more often than most people.
Anything you use with regularity should be close at hand, and easy to find without having to reach or twist your body.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
Are you feeling the effects of having been working at a poorly designed workstation?
Maybe you’re worried about developing musculoskeletal injuries after having worked from a non-ideal workspace for the duration of the pandemic and want to be proactive in preventing issues from developing.
Or you’re worried because you’re starting to notice the signs of an issue such as carpal tunnel syndrome, such as tingling in your fingers, or weakness in your hands.
Capitol Physical Therapy can help.
Serving the Washington DC area, we offer physical therapy services for issues related to the musculoskeletal system, including ergonomic injuries.
Contact us today for more information about our services or to set up an appointment.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC