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Workstation Warriors

June 6, 2011

There is an army out there.  Day in and day out, in silicon trenches they hone their skills on desktops and laptops.  They train hard and they work hard.  And they have the battle scars to prove it: back, neck, and wrist pain; headaches and eye strain.   They are the Workstation Warriors.

And you’re part of that army.  You show up diligently for your job; be it web design, accounting, programming or any of the myriad vocations that require hours of sitting in front of your computer.  Things usually start off alright, but slowly a change happens.  A tension starts building in your body.  And it grows from an annoying discomfort to outright pain.  But it’s not just the pain that’s the problem; it also affects the effort and energy you have to stay at the top of your game.  Studies show that there is significant productivity loss associated with the muscle and joint aches and pains of desk and computer work.

In light of this let’s take a look at some simple things you can do to reduce pain, make your workspace more comfortable, and improve productivity.

Ergonomic and environmental factors

Much research has been done into what the best way to sit/type/read is.  And what the research shows is that there is no single best way to approach any of those variables.  However, even though there is no perfect position, there are some general steps to take to position yourself and your workstation to function well.

Keyboard – Have your keyboard positioned just above your lap and have your arms relaxed freely or use arm rests that just support but do not elevate your elbows.

Monitor – Your monitor should be directly in front of you with the centre of the screen at eye level.  The monitor, keyboard, and you should all be in line (none of that twisting your body to reach the keyboard on one side while you look in another direction for the monitor).

Phone – When it comes to talking on the phone either use a headset or hold the phone with your hand but refrain from cradling it between your ear and shoulder (it might have made you look like you were really takin’ care of business in the 80’s, but not so much now).

Chair – Adjust your chair so that your knees are bent at approximately a 100 degree angle with feet flat on the floor while sitting upright.  Have the chair back providing support to the small of your back.

Individual factors

Along with desk and chair positioning there are also steps you can take to make sure that your internal environment is functioning well.

Move around – I’ve said many times before that our bodies are made to move and be active.  The problem, however, is that a workstation (station: from the Latin meaning to stand still) by definition is a place where very little movement happens.  So the first piece of advice is to frequently change your position.  Change how you’re sitting; stand up and move around for 30 seconds every twenty minutes or so; instead of emailing something to a co-worker, get up from the chair and bring it to them.

Stretch – Muscles will get tight.  And then they’ll get sore.  Take a preventative approach and stretch them out frequently throughout the day.  Pick one or two muscles each hour and make it a part of your routine to stretch.  It’ll make a difference.

Drink water – I sometimes think I sound like a broken record1 but having enough water in your system is important.  Water keeps your blood flowing, your neurons firing, and your nose running (a runny nose is actually a good sign that your immune system is working).  Drinks such as coffee and tea contain caffeine which is a diuretic.  Although there are health benefits associated with them they tend to dehydrate you.  My suggestion: drink an equal amount of water for every coffee/tea you consume.  Now some may say that this will have them frequenting the washroom more frequently…but that works well into getting up and away from the desk more often.

Give your eyes a break too – Use the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something at least 20 feet away.  This helps the muscles in your eyes to relax (yup, even in there you have tiny little muscles working hard for you)

Sometimes, however, even the best executed plans still need some extra help.  And when that’s the case, come and see your chiropractor.  Through a variety of therapies we can help reduce muscle tension and joint stiffness.  We can show you the most appropriate stretches and exercises for your specific needs.  We can just plain help you to feel better and stay well.  If you need help, contact us.

1.  Records were like big, vinyl CDs2

2.  CDs were like smaller, shiny plastic records1

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