Preventing back strain at work

You could be increasing the risk of back strain if you spend the majority of your day sitting at a desk infront of a computer screen.

David Annett, a registered Osteopath and Ergonomist, gives tips on avoid back strain.

1.  Get familiar with your chair controls – the majority of office workers are not aware of all the adjustments on their chairs and will usually find them more comfortable if the adjustments are optimised.

2. If you have a standard height desk and you are less than 5ft 6” tall you will usually need a footrest to achieve a comfortable posture. The desk should be level with the bottom of your elbow when arm is relaxed by your side with your elbow bent.

3. Having arms on your chair can sometimes stop you getting close enough into the desk and lead to you slouching forward to reach the keyboard. They can usually be removed easily and will allow you to sit in a much better posture.

4. Few people can sit upright for long periods and their postural muscles will fatigue. It is the job of the backrest of the chair to support your back instead of these muscles so try and keep your back in contact with the backrest as much as possible. 

5. If you look at your fingers whilst typing you will not be sitting in the best posture as your head will be tipped forward. Learning to touch type will improve your posture and also make you more productive!

6. When your eyes get tired you will end up leaning forward to get closer to the screen.  Looking away from the screen for 10 seconds every 20 minutes is enough to minimise eye fatigue.  Making the text bigger and easier to read will reduce the strain on your eyes.

7. Getting out of your chair at least every hour will reduce the chance of back strain.  You can get software such as Work Rave to remind you, but try and organise your day to include breaks e.g. go and talk to a colleague rather than emailing them, print on a printer further away from your desk, don’t eat lunch at your desk, keep your files away from your desk so you have to get up to get them.

8. To avoid pains in your wrists try to keep your wrists straight and avoid resting them while you type. If you do not touch type, the more fingers used and the less hard you hit the keys the better.  Regular stretching and circling of the wrists will prevent tension build up.

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