Office Ergonomics; Reduce the Pain from Sitting at Your Desk


According to a study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of all occupations, 39% of the workday is spent sitting. Those occupations that are considered more “Desk Jobs” such as HR Managers, Lawyers, Insurance Sales Agents, and Software Engineers spend over 75% of their workday sitting. Now in the US workforce continues to see a shift towards a more individuals sitting all day working at a computer.  It’s important that you understand the importance of Office Ergonomics.

Office Ergonomics is a focus on the efficiency of individuals at workplace on their work. You might have seen products like desk chairs, keyboards and mouse sets, etc. advertised as being “ergonomically designed”. This means that they were designed with the focus of the synergistic relationship between you and a product rather than just the functionality of the product.

There has been numerous studies discussing the association of sitting for long periods of time and chronic pain within the back, neck, and shoulders. Also, in a recent report released on the Annals of Internal Medicine, discussed other serious health risk such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes associated with prolonged sitting. Here are a few tips to combat the effects from sitting too long:

Proper Desk Layout

Setting up your desk to have the proper layout is key.  Humanscale, a maker of ergonomic products, has a chart that explains some of the best practices. Start by replacing your poor posture with good posture by sitting at your desk with your back at a 90-degree angle with your legs. From there adjust your chair so that when you extend your arms to the keyboard tray on the wrist rests that your elbows are in line or above your wrists. Computer screens should be adjusted to be at eye level and arms length away. If your monitor(s) are too high or too low it could lead to neck pain.

Standing Desks

Standing desks are a great way to reduce the amount of time sitting at your desk. Today’s sitting desks typically allow for you to raise and lower them at your leisure insuring that you get up off your chair for a little while. Try intervals of 20-30 minutes alternating between sitting and standing to start. Keep in mind the tips about your level for your monitors and elbows when you are standing. Don’t want to invest in a standing desk yet? Then look to stand whenever you are on the phone or doing a particular task that doesn’t involve you on the computer directly.

Quick stretch

Getting up and stretching out your muscles is a great way to reduce the likelihood of having pain. Bowflex has a quick one-minute, stretch that helps to hit a lot of the affected muscles including your hip flexors, which contribute to lower back pain.

Add a Footrest

For some, the office chair is just too high for you to sit properly at the desk, a footrest is a great solution. Another option is a mini cycle, that allows for you to pedal while you work, this is a great solution if you have trouble getting to the gym, just don’t forget to stretch first.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often associated with recovering from injuries, but you can see a physical therapist for other reasons. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), discusses how a physical therapist can actually potentially help to identify potential problems that could lead to more serious conditions. Chronic headaches, carpal tunnel, even lower back pain all are things that experienced physical therapists are trained to help reduce the likelihood of hazards down the road.

Overall there are a ton of helpful tips to help make your workspace more ergonomic. Implement a few of them over the next few weeks and you’ll really start seeing an overall improvement in not only how you feel but you might even start to notice improvements in your productivity and quality of work. If you feel like you are still struggling, would like to learn more on what kind of benefits physical therapy could bring you, or experiencing pain associated with other common issues, reach out to us and schedule a free consultation with one of our board-certified physical therapists.