Computer Ergonomics

Posted on April 11th, 2013

One of the most common presentations we see in the clinic is neck pain and headaches caused by poor posture, and particularly related to sitting at a computer for long periods of time. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your workstation or home computer and preventing posture-related neck pain:

  1. If you have to use a laptop for long periods of time, use it at a table, not on the couch. It is also a good idea to have a separate mouse and keyboard attached to your laptop.
  2. Your table should be just below bent elbow height (with your shoulders relaxed).
  3. Your chair should be adjusted so that your feet are flat on the ground, and your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Your bottom should be well back in the chair and your back relaxed against the back rest (no perching on the edge).
  4. Your screen should be just below eye level and directly in front of you, about arms distance away. If you have two screens, have your main screen directly in front and your second screen off to one side.
  5. Your keyboard should be approximately 10 cm back from the edge of the table, so that you can rest your forearms on the table as you type.
  6. Your mouse and phone should be within easy reach.
  7. Avoid holding your telephone between your ear and shoulder. If you have to type while on the phone, it is best to invest in a headset.
  8. Get your eyes checked! Often headaches are caused by vision problems. Also check that the lighting in your workstation is adequate without causing excessive glare or reflection off the screen.
  9. Have regular breaks. Studies have linked excessive sitting with many health conditions and a shorter life span.
  10. Stretch your neck and jaw and roll your shoulders frequently throughout the day to avoid tension build-up. Also, think about drawing your chin back slightly and growing tall through the top of your head… this will allow the muscles at the back of your neck to relax and relieve pain up under the base of your skull (a common starting point for headaches).