For the 70% of Costa Ricans with office or sedentary jobs, much of life, about 90,000 hours, is spent sitting in front of a computer. But this is not exclusive, if we do a survey the phenomenon is repeated over and over again in any part of the world. And not only this, with the rise in popularity of gaming and home entertainment, more people find themselves in front of their computer screens after work hours.
As computer use increases, so do the number of computer-related injuries. Areas such as the shoulder, lower back, wrist, neck, and eyes are particularly vulnerable to injury from poor computer posture. According to medical professionals, the onset and worsening of medical conditions such as scoliosis, repetitive strain injury, or carpal tunnel syndrome have a direct correlation to prolonged periods of poor posture in front of the screen. An article from Harvard Medical School also linked poor computer posture to incontinence, constipation, heartburn, and slow digestion.
For many of us, sitting in front of a computer is an unavoidable part of life. However, if we are going to spend our days in front of one, it is best that we do it with the correct posture. Here we review how to take care of your health while you work.
Learn the correct computer posture
Good posture means that your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles are in line. Sitting with proper alignment improves blood flow, supports muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and helps keep nerves and blood vessels healthy. In addition to proper alignment, there are other practices and habits to remember.
Here are the four things to keep in mind when checking your computer’s posture:
1. Check that your monitor is at or slightly below eye level: It is important that your monitor is not too high or too low so that you can comfortably watch it without straining your neck. If you’re using a laptop, you can opt for a stand to adjust the height of the screen.
2. Check that your arms form a 90 to 120 degree angle and that your wrist and arms are aligned: If your chair comes with an armrest, make sure you raise it to a height where your forearms can rest comfortably while you type. If you need to move the mouse, do it while holding this position and make small movements with your forearm instead of moving your whole arm.
3. Make sure your feet are firmly on the ground: If you wear platform shoes or heels, we recommend switching to flat-soled shoes while using a computer. If your feet can’t touch the ground, consider purchasing a footrest.
4. Make sure your lower back is supported: Lower back injuries are extremely common, which is why most ergonomic computer chairs come with lower back support, also known as lumbar support. If your chair doesn’t come with this extra, you can use a pillow as a makeshift cushion.
Avoid bad posture when using the PC
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what good posture is, it’s also important to recognize and avoid poor posture:
Avoid slouching: this is the most common posture error when using a computer and is also the leading cause of back-related injuries for office workers. Slouching puts pressure on the spine and can even reduce lung capacity while sitting. The best way to avoid slouching is to practice good posture, and if you need a reminder, set an alarm every 30 minutes to remind yourself to maintain proper posture in front of your computer.
Avoid overextending your arms: this can lead to serious shoulder injuries. Whether you’re reaching for a phone, drinking, or just moving your mouse, it’s essential that you adjust the height of your chair’s armrests so that your elbows are at a 90- to 120-degree angle.
Avoid resting your wrist on unpadded surfaces: When using the keyboard and mouse, avoid resting your wrist on the edge of the computer or table. If you need to rest your wrist, we suggest you buy foam keyboard pads and mouse pads with wrist rest.
Avoid crossing your legs: your body is only fully supported when your feet are firmly planted on the ground, so it’s important not to cross your legs for prolonged periods while using the computer.
Avoid wearing bifocal lenses: remember that they are segmented into two parts; the upper part of the lens is designed for long distances and the lower part for short. Bifocal eyeglass wearers often develop a habit of tilting their heads up and down to read the computer screen. Repetitive head movements can cause neck and shoulder injuries, so it’s best to leave your bifocals off when using the computer.
Tips for maintaining proper posture
Maintaining proper posture is not easy. The body will naturally try to put itself in different positions, so here are some tips that you can put into practice:
Think of a non-reflective height-adjustable monitor: Being able to easily see the entire monitor is especially important to avoid neck strain. Minimizing reflections on the monitor and being able to adjust its height is essential.
Get an ergonomic mouse: Improper use of a mouse can easily cause wrist and shoulder strain.
Opt for an ergonomic computer desk and chair: A height-adjustable computer desk and ergonomic chair will do wonders for your posture.
Exercise and take breaks to stretch: Your body is designed to be in motion, so holding a fixed position for long periods of time can be detrimental; it is important to take a few seconds to stretch and loosen the extremities. Studies have shown that quick stretch breaks can decrease the rate of desk-related injuries by 76%.