In preparing to write this “first ever blog entry” I had some fun trying to find an image to go along with the topic and found this one (above or below) because it posed multiple examples of what could cause pain with prolonged time spent in this work space. Before we continue, take a minute to identify as many examples as you can and then think about what you would do to alleviate the problem areas to benefit your own efficiency, comfort, and pain levels?
How many did you find? The main one that sticks out to me is that there is a laptop present and it is very close to where you would be sitting, not to mention how much neck flexion would be required to read what is on the screen with the angle that it is tilted. Other major items that I took note of (but aren’t limited to) include: static height monitors/chair, windows behind the monitors, desk height (in relation to chair), and non-swivel chair with a multiple monitor station.
A major item to keep in mind when working at a desk for long periods of time is “how often is my body not in a natural and relaxed position”. This includes rotating your head or looking down instead either turning your body or shifting your eyes to to object of importance. It is these repetitions that can lead to chronic issues. Say if you had a second monitor on the right side of your main monitor and you found yourself rotating your head 20 or so times in 10 minutes for one project. The muscles in your neck that control right rotation would be getting a work out while the opposing muscles are repeatedly inhibited. It is a similar mechanism while sleeping on your stomach. Unless you have a special pillow, your head has to be turned to one side or the other.
A quality work space is one that allows you to have your feet flat on the ground, sitting straight up with lumbar arch support, key items within an arms reach, minimal unnecessary movement, standard back-lighting, and the ability to change layout periodically. Yes some movements and/or sitting/standing positions can’t be avoided, but being able to minimize one side of your body being used on a consistent basis while the other is being neglected can lead to the same areas of our backs/necks being a chronic low-grade pain. Being able to adapt to changing conditions is what our bodies are built for, it is best for us to have an environment that changes from time to time to keep us engaged and prevent stagnation. A simple example that provides great benefits are sit to stand desks. They allow for a significant boost to overall upper and lower back health by engaging muscles that are inhibited while we sit. This interaction reduces strain and improves joint function in the long term for those that tend to spend long periods of time at a desk.
What I would like for you to take away from this is to pay attention to things that you do every day like how you position yourself while driving, how you shift your weight while standing up from a seated position, how you carry yourself while working, or how you pick up your brick of a 50 pound dog.