9 Ways to Stay Comfortable at Your Work Desk

By , Alina Dizik, Woman's Day
Spending so much time at work can make you worse for wear—and not just mentally. Sitting improperly can up your chances for shoulder, wrist, back and neck injuries. Worse, you may not recognize your body's warning signs, such as muscle stiffness, aching and fatigue, says Jean Duffy Rath, Dip MDT, a physical therapist in Syracuse, NY. That's why it's important to change your workstation to fit your needs. "You wouldn’t drive without first adjusting your car seat—you need to do the same for your desk chair," says Dr. Duffy Rath, who suggests readjusting weekly. Here's exactly what to do to minimize pain at a desk job. 
1. Don't strain your eyes.

Craning your neck or moving your head to see what’s on your computer screen can cause everything from tension headaches to blurred vision. You can move your eyes to see the first line of type on your monitor, but if you have to move anything else, readjust. "Be cognizant of how far away you're sitting," recommends Tom Albin, a workplace ergonomist in Minneapolis. Ideally, keep the screen about 20 inches away from your face and make the type big enough to read without squinting. If the monitor's height doesn't adjust, stick heavy books under it or raise your desk chair. 

2. Take breaks from the computer screen.

Looking away from a lit-up monitor every half-hour makes work easier, says Pamela McCauley Bush, PhD, director of the Ergonomics Laboratory at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Simply stare elsewhere at your desk and away from the glare for about 20 seconds at a time, suggests Dr. McCauley Bush. Even better, stand up to get a drink or chat with a coworker to ease strain on your entire body.

3. Keep shoulders from slouching.

While it may seem more comfortable in the short term, good posture at your desk reduces your risk for long-term back, shoulder and neck problems. Still, the switch takes some getting used to. Learn what good posture feels like by sitting with your spine straight and pelvis tilted slightly forward, says Dr. Duffy Rath. Once you understand how to sit, "adjust your chair so it supports your posture," she says. Do posture checks throughout the day to make you’re sitting in the best position possible.

4. Avoid laptop keyboards.

These are designed less ergonomically than full-size keyboards, making them tough to use for heavy typing. Plus, "when the laptop keyboard is positioned properly, the laptop monitor is too low. When the laptop monitor is properly positioned, the laptop keyboard is too high," explains Tamara James, ergonomics director at Duke University Health System in Durham, NC. If you must use a laptop, place the monitor at a proper height and invest in a separate keyboard.

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