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Sit Up Straight! Tips from an Ergonomic Expert Will Make You Feel Better at Work and at Play

Sit Up Straight! Tips from an Ergonomic Expert Will Make You Feel Better at Work and at Play

Sore shoulders? Aching back? Reduce pain and increase productivity by consulting with an ergonomic expert.

It’s not in your head — in fact, that nagging, office-related pain can slow you down even when you’re away from work. Poor workplace posture and repetitive movements lead to musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries and epicondylitis — elbow and muscle strain on the lower back. Many of these conditions can be prevented, or the pain can be reduced, with ergonomic corrections.

Your best bet is to consult an ergonomic expert to work out the kinks in your workday habits.

Know Your Options

It’s the law for workers to have safe and healthful environments in which to work. To make sure they comply, companies often have an expert on site who can evaluate your current working situation and make recommendations to improve your wellbeing.

Additionally, government resources are available through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). OSHA provides detailed information about musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace and has trained professional who can “fit the workplace to the worker” by finding solutions to reduce and eliminate pain.

A third option is to consult with a physical therapist who can identify the factors that led to your injury. A physical therapist will develop a treatment plan that helps you build strength and reduce pain.

Have an Ergonomic Evaluation

In a typical office evaluation, the consultant will evaluate your chair, desk, keyboard, mouse, monitor, and lighting to help you find the optimal working position.

The following are common ergonomic adjustments that can help you work smarter and pain-free:

Re-Position Your Monitor

  • Set your monitor just beyond arms’ reach with a comfortable line of vision and align your monitor, keyboard and body.
  • Check the height of your monitor; raise or lower as needed so that the top third is viewable by looking straight ahead.
  • Make sure your eyes are moving, not your neck. It is easy to unconsciously move your head while working.
  • Rest your eyes throughout the day by looking away from the screen and focusing on something else 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Remember to blink every 5 to 10 seconds to refresh your eyes.

Align Your Chair

  • Sit with your back flush against the chair to keep your spine healthy and straight.
  • Pull your chair up to the desk so that your armrests are underneath slightly.
  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor and position your hips higher than your knees. You should feel no pain or pressure in the backs of your legs.
  • Your stomach should be close to the desk and your arms at 90 degrees so that only two-thirds of your forearms should be in contact with the desk.

Get Situated

  • Find the right desk height. If you feel pressure on your shoulders, raise or lower your desk until you find the appropriate height.
  • Move your mouse with your forearm, not your wrist.
  • Organize your desk so frequently-used items like your phone, keyboard, mouse and stapler are all within easy reach.
  • Get up and move every 20 to 60 minutes to keep your blood pumping. If needed, you can download an app to remind you to move around at certain intervals.
  • Consider a standing desk to allow you to work standing or sitting. This alleviates pressure on your back and hips.

A poor ergonomic position can lead to chronic injury and pain and result in missed work. If you are experiencing neck or back pain and numbness and tingling from nerve strain, don’t wait. Make an appointment with your physical therapist.

A physical therapist can ease the pain and determine a way to stop the progression of your injury.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and in search of a physical therapist, call  (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit to schedule an appointment.

By Heidi Tyline King

Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area.