Sitting and Standing Workstation Wellness
Amy Mayer, OTD, OTR/L
Mayer Wellness, LLC
Ergonomics is about reducing risk factors to decrease the potential for injury at your workstation. Common risk factors are time, misalignment of the body and repetition. Time at your workstation and repetition of tasks is often not negotiable. Therefore, you must pay extra attention to your body alignment.
Sitting Vs. Standing
Having the option to both sit and stand at your workstation is ideal. Varying your position throughout the day will keep your body more mobile. Whether you are sitting or standing, create a good home base posture and vary from it regularly.
Low Back Alignment
There are a few key alignment necessities whether you are sitting or standing. The number one alignment necessity is to maintain your low back curve. Untuck your tailbone. Honoring your low back curve is a huge step to aligning your body in a manner that will protect you from future back and hip pain. It also encourages the rest of the body to line up properly.
Lower Body Alignment
If you are sitting, aim for 90 degrees at the hips, knees, and ankles for your home base position. If your feet cannot reach the floor, support them with a footrest. When you are standing, either at a workstation or in general, aim for stacking your hips over your knees and your knees over your ankles. The weight of your body should be on your heels. Many people tend to tuck their tailbone and shift their hips forward putting the weight in the front of the feet. Over time this creates wear and tear on tissues not designed to support this line of force in the feet, knees, and hips. The fascial system restructures itself to support this posture leading to tightness in the muscles and joints. At the same time, other muscles in the back are over lengthened and become weak, and others are shortened and become tight.
When standing, aim for the feet pointing straight forward and aligned directly under the hips. Keep the weight on the heels. Many people tend to stand with their feet wider than their hips and angle the feet away from their midline. This creates a greater sense of stability when the hip and back muscles are weak. When bringing the feet into proper alignment, this can create a sense of the knees angling inward. It can take some time to realign the muscles back into the proper position and create a feeling of normalcy.
When sitting, the back should lean against the back of the chair stacking the shoulders and ears above or slightly behind the hips. This allows the back muscles to relax. When standing, stack the shoulders and ears above the hips. If the chest and shoulders are tight there can be a tendency to tip the rib cage up when bringing the shoulders and ears back. Bring the ribs down over the hips and then bring the shoulder and ears back.
Whether sitting or standing, bring the mouse and the keyboard close enough to the body so the upper arms can hang straight down when typing and mousing. Bend the elbows to about 90 degrees and keep the wrists flat when typing and mousing.
Wrists, Typing, and Mousing
When typing and mousing glide across the keyboard rather than resting the wrists to the desk or a wrist rest. This transitions the motion from the larger muscles of the arm to the small muscles of the wrists. At the same time the pressure reduces the space in wrist and causes increased friction. Hovering while typing and mousing reduces pressure and friction in the wrists. Wrist rests are meant to support your wrists while you are not typing.
Monitors and Your Eyes
Your eyes operate on muscles too. Take every opportunity you can to look up from your monitor. Look out a window, if you can. Move your eyes through their full range of motion occasionally throughout your day.
When your eyes are relaxed they are not looking straight ahead. Resting gaze is about 20 degrees below horizon. The area of your screes you view the most should be about there or lower. Place the monitor at a distance that is comfortable for you. If you use bifocals, you may want the monitor slightly lower.
If you use two monitors, consider how much you use each and split the space accordingly. If you use one monitor only 10 percent of the time to check email and the other 90 percent, then the monitor you work on the most should have most of the space in front of you. If you use them equally, split the space equally.
Movement and Balance
If your workstation is set up to sit only or stand only, try to vary your position as much as you can returning to your home base the majority of the time. Set up your work space so you are turning, looking, and reaching to the right and left as equally as possible. If the window and door are both on the right, place your coffee cup and phone on the left. Create balance in your movement. Place items you use occasionally just out of reach so you must move from your workstation. Place some on a high shelf and some low so you must both reach and squat occasionally during your day. If you are reading, and do not need to use your arms, take that opportunity to move them through their full range of motion.
If you are at a standing workstation, stretch your calves frequently. Shift your weight and vary your stance. Add a small box you can step one foot on to and alternate feet. It is still important to take breaks and walk when you can.
If you have pain, an old injury or a disability you may need additional adjustments in your workstation. Seek and expert to help you determine the best way to reduce your risk factors and increase your comfort and wellness at your workstation. Below are some common problems and potential solutions.
|Common Problems:||Potential Solutions:|
|Eye strain||Stretch your eye muscles.
Find a far point in the room or look out a window. Focus on that point for a few seconds several times per hour.
Make large circles with your eyes, first one direction, then the other.
|Elbow and forearm pain||Are you resting your arm on the edge of the desk or the arm of the chair for long periods of time? Do you stick to the wrist rest or the desk? Eliminate the habit. Move your mouse and keyboard closer to the edge of the desi. Move the arms of your chair down or take them off.
|Neck strain||Check the distance of your keyboard and your mouse. They should be close to your body.
Make sure your keyboard and mouse are close enough to your body you are not reaching for them. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor when typing or mousing.
Check the height of your monitor. The most viewed area should be just below eye level.
Do you wear bifocals? This often causes you to extend your neck. Move your computer farther away from you or down.
When you are typing your ear should be aligned with your hip bone or slightly behind it.
|Finger and wrist pain||Check to see if you are “sticking” to the wrist rest while you are typing or mousing. You should “hover” while you type. Stretch your arms often.
Are you using a roller ball mouse? Consider using a standard mouse.
|Low back pain||Are you leaning forward or sitting on the edge of your chair?
Pull your chair in (check the distance of your keyboard) and use the backrest on your chair. Walk during your break. Stretch frequently.
|Leg pain||Is your chair too high? Does the edge of the seat cut into the back of your thighs back in your chair.|
If you need assistance with an ergonomic consultation, let your supervisor know. Then contact Amy Mayer OTD, OTR/L at MayerWellness@gmail.com.
© Amy Mayer OTD, OTR/L 2017