SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – Despite never breaking a sweat, sitting at work can cause considerable wear and tear on a body. Many Americans spend a great deal of time behind a desk each day, and poor posture or workspace arrangement can result in visits to doctors or therapists with complaints of neck, back, wrist or elbow pain.
"One of the biggest causes of injuries at a computer workstation is poor posture," said Shannon Clearwater, an occupational therapist at Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow. "Observe other people in your workspace and you will probably see slumped shoulders, necks extending forward, bent wrists and awkward positions." She suggests that by keeping a relaxed, but straight posture, people can reduce back and neck pain.
Perhaps the easiest adjustment to make when sitting for extended periods of time is to the chair itself. When sitting, thighs should be parallel with the floor and feet should rest flat. A slight backwards lean can help relieve pressure on the lower back. Place your keyboard and mouse at a height that creates a 90 to 120 degree angle at the elbows. If the angle is greater, consider raising your chair or adding a keyboard tray.
When desk-bound workers experience neck and eye strain, the cause may be monitors that are too bright or positioned too low on their desk. "The top of your computer screen should be at or just below your eye level and about 18-30 inches away from your face," said Clearwater. Constantly looking down at a screen puts pressure on the neck and draws the whole body forward, closer to the screen. As a result, back posture slouches and other areas of the body become affected.
When dealing with any workplace discomfort, Clearwater suggests consulting the experts to pinpoint the issue. "An occupational therapist can help you identify problematic areas in your work area and teach you how to prevent injuries," said Clearwater.
For more information or to reach the occupational therapy department at Phelps, call (914) 366-3700.