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Through lockdown, the most common questions we had were about chairs and desks for home office setups. Even now in March 2021, some people are still working from home, with others back in the office. If you have been wondering what the best office or desk setup is, keep reading because I am about to break it down and make it simple!
First, you will need to work out how high off the ground your chair needs to be. For most people, this isn’t an issue because any good office chair will have adjustable height. Generally speaking, the best height is to have your chair a few centimetres above knee height. That way, the chair will take most of the leg’s weight without them dangling.
Next, you’ll need to look at the backing of the chair. Some chairs have very aggressive lumbar support, while others are almost concave in shape. Choosing your chair backing comes down mostly to comfort. Sit in a few demo chairs at the store and stay there for five to ten minutes. You should notice that it feels like the chair is contacting your low back, but also doesn’t feel like it’s pressing on you too hard.
In my experience, the more cushioning the chair has, the better. I find that for long periods of sitting, chairs that are made of mesh or have thin padding begin to irritate the more prominent parts of your back – like your shoulder blades or pelvis. For long periods of time, it is also better to use a chair that features armrests.
When looking for a desk that is the right height, it’s best to match the height of the desk approximately to the height of your chair’s armrests. This will create a smooth transition between the chair and your desk for your arms to rest on. Once this is has been completed, it’s time to set up your computer.
Make sure the middle of the computer screen is at or just below eye level. This will mean that your neck is not bent forward or down looking towards the screen. If you have a laptop, place it on a stand and use a wireless keyboard and mouse. I always recommend a larger sized mouse – the more open the hand position, the less excessive strain on the small muscles in the hand and the tendons of the wrist there will be.
Now that you know how to set up your office, let’s go over some problems associated with badly set up office spaces and how to manage them.
Common musculoskeletal conditions associated with office workers include:
Injuries which are associated with repetitive strain frequently begin as a persistent ache in a specific spot, often in the wrist and then progresses to a burning type of pain. These type of injuries are often caused by simple, seemingly harmless movements like wiping a large number of surfaces, using a computer mouse or writing by hand. These movements result in too much stress over time on small tendons, causing them to become inflamed.
Lumbar facet syndrome is most commonly caused by having too much of a curve in your low back. The facet joints are located at the back of the vertebrae, so when there is too much curve, more of your body weight is placed on them. This causes them to become inflamed or irritated from the extra pressure.
Myofascial pain syndrome is often seen when muscles in the shoulders and neck tighten up and develop trigger points due to poor posture. This can cause pain which can feel like it’s travelling to other areas when you push on the points, or knots.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a compression of the median nerve at the carpal tunnel, which is a small tunnel running through the middle of the wrist bones. This condition feels like burning, shooting or electric type pain in the thumb and first two fingers of the hand. It is important to have carpal tunnel syndrome assessed, as it can become a more permanent injury if not managed properly.
Degenerative joint disease – or Osteoarthritis – is caused by excessive pressure on joints over time. It is more common as age increases, and can begin as feeling like stiffness before becoming a persistent ache. People who experience degenerative joint disease often report that is worse in the morning when they first wake up, and as they move more it improves.
The best way to manage these conditions is to avoid them altogether! It is always better to try to prevent problems like the above by setting up a well thought out work space. If you are experiencing any of these conditions or you simply want to set up an ideal office, you can give us a call or seek advice from your trusted health professional.
By Dr. Beau Kenihan (Chiropractor)