For a lot of us sitting at a desk for hours on end is simply a fact of life, as too is the pain and discomfort that we start to feel after doing it for some time. We do not like to complain though, as there are people out there doing jobs that require great physical exertion and expose them to hazardous conditions, so what right do we have to complain?
Firstly put that though out of your mind forever. Anyone who has spent anytime at a gym will know that even the least physically taxing task can have an effect on the body if done for long enough (think high reps, low weight). Keeping this in mind, you can start to see how spending a third of every day sat in a chair at your desk could start to affect your body; and more importantly that this is nothing to be ashamed of.
It is important that to begin with you understand what it is exactly that can cause these aches and pains to develop in the first place, and the answer to that question is sitting. Ok that’s not strictly true, but it is the root of the problem, as it is the basis on which all related ailments grow. Of course standing at workstations all day would also become uncomfortable before long, not to mention tedious; this would be the case with assuming any position for prolonged periods.
This suggests that the trick to alleviating any discomfort is not in the position, but rather the manner in which the position is assumed and held. So assuming this is the case how can you sit in a way that is both healthy and comfortable even after several hours? Well sadly there is not a way to guarantee that you will not be affected by the occasional discomfort, the odd ache, or even a small repetitive strain injury; but there are ways to ward them away and keep their effects to a minimum.
Get the back-up you need – Your back carries a great deal of strain and is often the part of the body that will compensate and take the strain for another part. It is because of this that you should always make sure that your back is given more than adequate support; this can be given in the form of a back-support or lumbar cushion or even simply by adjusting your chair-back (if possible) so that it fits your back’s shape more comfortably.
Keep it up – A lot of people keep their chairs lower than they ought to so that the chairs arm rests don’t get caught on the edge of the desk. This is understandable, as it can get annoying, but it may be causing you some of the aches and pains that are far more irritating. The ideal height for a chair to be obviously differs depending on the individual, but there is a rule that can help you; your chair should be high enough so that your elbows, when rest upon the desk are parallel with the surface, and not hanging below it. The strain placed on your forearm when it is being pulled down over the corner of a desk can lead to a number of RSI’s.
Keep yourself rooted – Your feet and legs can offer the rest of your body much needed support even when you’re sitting. If you place both of you feet firmly on the ground right now, you will immediately notice that your posture will shift and that you are taking putting less pressure on your entire back, especially the lower regions. If placing your feet firmly on the ground is made difficult due to the necessary height of your chair, then getting yourself an ergonomic footrest would be a very highly recommended.
Be easy on the eyes – Your eyes can become strained very quickly when you spend all day using computers. Eye strain can be very unpleasant and can take a while to go away, especially as you will still have to look at a screen when you’re at work, which can prolong the time it takes to heal. Prevention is better than cure though, so rather than worrying about how to get rid of it, let’s focus on how to avoid straining your eyes in the first place. Firstly, keep your monitor a full arm’s length away from you; secondly, place your screen so that the top of the screen is at your eye height. If your chair is too high then getting a monitor stand or riser would be a good idea.
Good phone etiquette is important – The work place is very busy and with all the different forms of communication available, it is not uncommon to be on the phone to one customer whilst drafting an email to another. Efficiency is all very well and good, but if you spend hours of your day with your phone wedged firmly in between your shoulder and your ear you will soon find that your neck does not take kindly to it. If you do spend a lot of time on the phone you may want to consider a hands-free headset, which will allow you to type and talk on the phone without placing undue pressure on your neck.
Keep your friends close – Place items that you use regularly in convenient places so that you may access them easily. The items that you use once in a blue moon can be placed further away from you as having to get up, twist or stretch will only cause you momentary bother from time to time; and you will want to avoid having to twist and stretch daily, as that is how RSI’s develop.