Ergonomics of computing has come a long way, but it is hard to dispute the toll that it takes on us. Our eyes grow tired. Our heads ache. Our wrists become numb and tingly. And our posture suffers greatly. I know personally, I feel like I’m regressing daily to Neanderthal status with my computer slouch: my shoulders slump forward, my spine rounds down and my neck gets all scrunched.
Does this sound familiar? I’m not surprised. Here are a few small changes you can make during your day that can make a world of difference to your mind and body while tapping away at your keyboard:
- Be Aware of Ergonomics: OSHA has some great tips on keeping your workstation / desk ergonomically sound. A few of the most important:
- Screen Position: To help reduce scrunched neck syndrome, position your computer screen so that it is about 20 inches in front of you and the height of the screen is at eye level. This will help keep your neck straight instead of scrunched downward. When setting the height of the screen, make sure to sit in your chair and sit up as straight as possible.
- Wrist Rest: Avoid wrist strain by putting a wrist rest at the base of your keyboard.
- Clutter: Reduce clutter to ensure your desk has plenty of room for you to move your mouse and so forth.
- Get Up: If you sit all day at work, get up from your desk every hour to stretch. Walk to a colleague’s office down the hall instead of calling them on the phone to talk. Instead of using facilities on your own floor, take the stairs to a different floor for coffee or to go to the bathroom. Taking mini breaks will give your eyes a rest which should alleviate headaches and eye strain.
- Stretch: There are a few stretches in particular, that can be really helpful in getting your circulation moving and releasing tension that builds in muscles from sitting in one way for too long. Do each for 10 to 30 seconds each and maintain a steady, deep breathing pattern. My favorites:
- Chest: This stretch feels SO good and fixes computer slouch immediately. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and your arms down at your sides. Reach both of your arms behind you, palms facing one another. Clasp your hands behind your back, and pull your hands towards the floor to feel a stretch in your chest and your shoulders. Reach your clasped hands back and up, as far as they will go without straining. If you can’t clasp your hands behind your back, you can do one of two things: 1) Place your hands on your lower back and press your elbows towards one another to feel a stretch in the chest, or 2) Hold a scarf, belt or strap behind your back with both hands placed as closely as possible, but not too close so that you are straining the joints. Keeping your arms as straight as possible, lift your arms gently as far as they will go or until you feel the stretch. (Refer to Figure: Chest Stretch)
- Back of the Neck: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Tilt your head down so that you are looking at the ground. Lightly press the back of your head with both of your hands so that you feel a stretch in the back of the neck. (Refer to Figure: Back of the Neck Stretch)
- Side of the Neck: Keeping your eyes forward, tilt your head to the right so that your right ear is next to your right shoulder. With your right hand, gently apply pressure on the left side of your head so that you feel a stretch in the left side of your neck. When done, repeat on the other side. (Refer to Figure: Side of the Neck Stretch)
Do you feel like a Neanderthal by the end of the day? What small changes can you share to help others get relief from computer slouch?
Photography Credit: Glenn Kulbako