Chances are you’re sitting at a desk right now, reading this during one of the many hours you spend on the computer each day. We all know good posture is important, but Dr. Michael Robertson, D.C., Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of Las Colinas, urges us to take it seriously, as improper posture can have silent, long-term damaging effects on spinal health. Follow his helpful tips about optimal workstation set-up and posture.
The Posture-Brain Connection
There’s no doubt good posture feels better, but did you know it affects productivity? You’ll be sharper if you purposely practice good posture while working. “Sitting at your desk with improved posture allows for better communication between your brain and body by keeping your spine in optimal alignment,” explains Dr. Mike. “When you tilt your head forward and slouch, you put your spinal cord under stress. This common posture decreases mental acuity by reducing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid feeding your brain.”
Creating alignment between your body and your workstation is key. “Make sure your monitor is square to your body so that it's directly in front of you,” Dr. Mike says. “Monitors off to one side are no good.” While OSHA suggests having the top of your monitor aligned at eye level our doctors have found that this position still causes people to slouch. Because of this we recommend keeping it at eye level.
Keep your hips and knees at 90-degree angles. Check armrests to ensure your elbows are also at 90 degrees. Dr. Mike recommends having a co-worker take a picture of you at your workstation from the side and the back. Then make adjustments.
Need a fast way to lift your monitor? Go old school and use a phone book or dictionary. Office supply stores offer a variety of footstools, which decrease pressure on your low back. Finally, Dr. Mike urges folks to get to know their office chairs, taking time to play with overall and armrest height, sitting angle and seat back depth to find what works for you.
If your workstation has two or more monitors, switch sides of the primary and secondary monitors often to keep your posture balanced.
“If you have a flat panel monitor, placing it towards the back of your desktop to give you more workspace will cause you to crane your head forward,” explains Dr. Mike. “This is tough on your back and neck, so keep your monitor closer to you.” The ideal placement is a bit farther than you’d hold a book; about 30 inches away.
Don’t Forget Your Phone
Proper phone use is tied to healthy posture, so use your speaker phone or headset to avoid tilting your head toward your shoulder. "Whenever possible, hold your smartphone up at eye level instead of looking down," Dr. Mike says. "It may look silly, but it’s worth it.” He predicts that wearable computing, like Google Glass, will help with posture challenges, but until then we need to be mindful.