Monday, March 3, 2008

Ergonomics in the Workplace - Nine Helpful Tips to Reduce Back Pain

Poor computer workstation ergonomics can be a cause of simple lower back pain and can lead to other problems too such as neck and shoulder pain and forearm and hand problems. This article suggests nine very simple tips that will instantly improve your posture whilst using a computer. 1. Get a decent chair.
So many people manage with any old chair that comes to hand; the chair should fit you and not all chairs fit everyone, so experiment with different types of chair. The good news is that you dont have to spend a fortune on a really expensive chair. A conventional chair will be perfectly alright provided you make sure it has a good solid base, is height adjustable and that you can alter the angle of the backrest.
2. Make sure your lower back is well supported.
This means that the natural inward curve of your lower spine should be supported. If you get the posture of your lower back right then your head and neck posture automatically improves too. Dont think that you will remember to sit upright all day, everybody sags when they stop concentrating and its tiring and hard work remembering to sit up tall the whole time. To avoid sagging as the day goes on you can use a chair that has a decent support already built in or use a lumbar roll.
Lumbar rolls are simply rolls of foam that sit at your beltline, between you and the chair back, and keep your lower back nicely upright. You can purchase ready made ones or alternatively make your own with a small rolled up towel or cushion. It’s a good idea to do this anyway as experimenting with the width of your lumbar roll will give you a good idea of the right size for you..
3. Make sure your feet are on the floor or up on a footrest.
This is sometimes a bit tricky, if the desk is too tall sometimes the chair height has to be increased and then your feet are not on the floor. You should be able to comfortably get your knees under the desk and have your feet on the floor, if you cant do this you need to change the desk or get a footrest.
4. Keep your head in a neutral position.
The centre of your screen should be at about 15 degrees below eye level. To achieve this you must have an adjustable monitor, both for tilt and for height. If you have to twist or turn to see your monitor this can be very bad news!
5. Try and keep your forearms at about a 90 degree angle.
Support them on the desk top or use a wrist rest. Your upper arms should be relaxed and vertical if possible. In order to achieve this you need to be able to move the keyboard around and the desk needs to be at the right height.
6. Dont work for long periods using a notebook or laptop.
You need to have the monitor at a decent height and still have your wrists supported. Unless you have a separate keyboard and mouse you cannot achieve this with a laptop. Without investing in separate a mouse and keyboard you will never get good computer workstation ergonomics using a portable machine. It is best to use a desktop machine when possible.
7. Dont share!
Often in offices people share chairs and computer workstations. Sometimes you cant avoid this but it is not good practice. Everyone is different and your workstation ergonomics should be set up for just you. If you have to share take time to readjust each time you use the computer again, it will be worth the effort.
8. Take regular breaks.
Stop, get up and move around for a few minutes every hour. If you find it hard to remember to take a break set a small alarm clock to beep on the hour.
9. Talk to your workplace occupational health team or an ergonomic assessor.
Many companies will offer computer workplace ergonomics assessment and give advice tailored to you.
Finally, remember we are all different so tailor this advice to suit you.
Paula Fitzpatrick is a British trained physiotherapist specialising in the treatment of back pain. Visit for up to date, reliable information about the causes and treatment of lower back pain.
See more information and a clear diagram illustrating correct keyboarding posture at

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