More and more people are working jobs that require them to spend much of their time sitting at a desk in front of a computer. While that may not seem like a dangerous job, it certainly can be hazardous to your health.
“Our bodies were not designed to stay in one position for long periods of time,” said Cindy Simmons, a physical therapist with Bon Secours InMotion. “Static postures result in reduced blood flow to muscles that hold the body in a fixed position.”
This can lead to muscles becoming fatigued and often painful, she said. Sedentary work can result in poor posture, muscle imbalances, pinched nerves, repetitive stress disorders, visual problems and a host of other issues.
Sitting too long can also lead to higher levels of blood sugar and fat, obesity, and a higher risk of metabolic disease.
It is always easiest, fastest, and more financially prudent to address potential ergonomic issues before they cause a problem.
Simmons said many “fixes” are easy and inexpensive and can help eliminate serious health issues that can occur down the road, quoting the well-known saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Neck and lower back pain are the most common complaints she sees in her patients who sit all day at a desk.
“One issue I run into a lot is that employees often don’t know that their chairs are fully adjustable. And if they do know that the chair is adjustable-they don’t know how to appropriately adjust it to fit their body,” Simmons said.
Rarely do employees know what all the knobs and levers under the chair are for, she said, adding that other common issues include the improper placement of keyboard and input devices, which results in excessive reaching, and improper monitor distance and height, which lead to poor postures while sitting.
Simmons recommends that first and foremost, those who sit for long periods of time in front of a desk find out how to properly adjust their office chair for their specific body stature.
“Employees should sit with feet on the floor — or on other supportive surface, such as a foot rest — and their knees and hips should be close to a 90-degree angle,” she said. “Employees should also sit back into the chair so that their back is fully supported.”
Their arms should be kept in a relaxed position next to the body, with elbows bent and the keyboard and input device should be placed so that they can easily be used while keeping the elbows close to the body.
Lastly, Simmons said the computer monitor should be placed at a distance that allows for easy reading (generally thought to be between 20 and 40 inches from the eye) and at a height such that the top of the monitor is at the horizontal line of sight (or slightly below).
A number of websites are out there that offer good advice and guidance for those who spend much of their day at a desk, including the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.