Humans have been sitting in chairs at desks, on couches and in cars for a relatively short time on the evolutionary time-scale but our modern lives and work posture are significantly centered around these pieces of furniture. Interestingly, tribal people who predominately sit on the ground, report a decreased incidence of lower back pain when compared to people from chair-using societies. It stands to reason; in order to remain comfortable sitting on the ground, one has to constantly shift position thus avoiding a static posture.
Office ergonomics is an important aspect of work posture and health. The principles, however, are simple. As a guide, we should observe the “90 degree rule”, illustrated above.
In order to achieve this we need to have, at least, an adjustable height chair and, preferably, an adjustable desk. This will allow the correct arm and eye levels with feet flat on the floor and the major joints at about 90 degrees. If you are a shorter person the use of an inclined footrest might help achieve this. Eye relief to the screen would be ideally slightly down and everything directly in front of you including any copy, which should be just to the side of the monitor so that an eye movement rather than a head movement is all that is needed.
Standing desks are very much in vogue these days and this may be a good option for those suffering with sitting related back pain. However, it is important not to swap one static posture for another – dynamicity is the key.
My Irish Granny used to say, “Everything in moderation” and she lived to 105! So remaining in any static posture for long periods may lead to problems. I suggest to my patients that they have 2 or 3 work station options available to them throughout the day. For example, a decent workstation chair, a standing desk and a Swiss ball to sit on at the desk. Moving through these working positions over the day, tying in with your 40 minute “back breaks”, will keep you posture changing. Don’t forget to walk out for lunch or over to the water cooler for a catch up…
David Baskeyfield, Osteopathic Natural Health.