Pain in the Office
By: Lauren Gelnick Stern
Q: I started a new job a couple of months ago, and since then, my whole body is hurting after a couple of hours. My job is computer-based, so I'm usually working in my office, typing on my computer. Help!
A: Today, so many of us are working on computers, even if we don't have jobs that are computer-based or in an office. The most important thing is to give yourself a 2-minute stretch break every hour or so—that means standing up, stretching your whole body, giving your eyes a break from the computer. Our bodies are not made for working at computer workstations for hours on end, without any breaks.
It's also important to ensure that you have a workstation that's ergonomically correct and fits you well—the chair should support your body (back, arms, thighs), but not rub against your knees, and you should be able to adjust different parts to make the chair fit you properly, including your feet, which should be resting on the floor (use a footrest if needed). The desk should be large enough that you can rest your arms on it, so they're supported. The monitor should be large enough and at a level that you don't have to bend your neck down or up to be able to see. It should also be placed in a way that that ensures there is no glare on your screen (or you can use an anti-glare filter).
Your keyboard should be positioned so that your wrists are able to rest lightly on the table or wrist rest and reach all parts of your keyboard easily. Your mouse should fit your hand, and you should not have pain while using it.
If you are looking at documents while working at your computer (ex: copying something, using a document as a reference, etc.), you should have a document holder on your monitor so you only have to move minimally between the two, and don't have to bend up and down and all around.
To sum up, the most important thing you can do to make sure you stay pain free while working on a computer or at a desk is to give yourself stretch breaks, and remember that the more supported your body is by your chair, desk, and the floor, the better it is for you. Take into account glare and eyestrain, and make sure that your monitor is placed well. Enjoy being pain free!
Lauren Gelnick Stern
is an occupational therapist with over a decade of experience in pediatrics and ergonomics. Her inspiration and love for ergonomics came from helping her friends (who were in pain from working on computers) be and work pain free. She specializes in homecare (pediatrics and adults) and ergonomics in offices, in Israel and New York. She can be reached at LaurenSternOT@gmail.com.