Workplace Ergonomics: Posture is the Key
By setting up your computer workstation optimally and paying attention to a few key elements of positioning and alignment we can greatly reduce our chance of an ergonomic injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury.
We begin by conducting an honest evaluation of working posture. We are aiming for a balanced and neutral overall position. Let’s go from the top down. When sitting at your computer start by ensuring your workstation is arranged so that your head and neck are upright. In other words, the head, neck, and torso are in line and not bent down or back. Next, face forward. This seems like simple common sense, but one of the most common things we run into is people having their monitor or the keyboard off to one side, forcing them to twist the head, neck, or trunk while working. It is best if the trunk or torso is perpendicular to the floor. As light lean back into a good backrest is ok, but having to lean forward is asking for trouble.
Now let us move down to our shoulders and arms. Shoulders and upper arms should also generally be in-line with your torso and nearly perpendicular to the floor. This is where most folks will harbor tension, so try to maintain awareness throughout the work shift and keep them relaxed. Try not to hunch shoulders up or stretch forward. Keep upper arms and elbows close to the body and comfortably hanging or supported on armrests. Lower arms, i.e. forearms, wrists, and hands, should remain straight and roughly 90 degrees to the upper arms. Pay particular attention to the wrists. If they are not kept straight in-line with the hands and are bent up, down, or sideways, you are asking for wrist strain that could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and serious problems.
The final third is focused on a good foundation. The legs should form a near 90 degree angle with the thighs horizontal and parallel to the floor and the lower legs perpendicular to the floor. It is okay if the thighs are slightly higher than the knees. Do not allow thighs to be lower than the knees as this tends to induce a forward lean and corresponding poor posture. Feet should rest comfortably flat on the floor or be supported with a sound footrest.