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Transform Your Desk Setup for 2024!

Updated: Jan 31

As the summer holidays come to a close and many of us return to work or study, there is no better time to evaluate our desk setup. Full-time desk workers spend around 2000 hours per year sitting behind a desk, and as a result, we see many clients who present complaints of neck, back, and shoulder discomfort from lack of movement or poor work setups.

While many of these injuries are not purely due to our sitting posture, enhancing the ergonomics of our desk setup has been shown to reduce muscle fatigue, tightness, and headaches.

The notion of "creep" in reference to physiology can explain some of the long-term effects of poor posture. "Creep" is the process of gradual lengthening or deformation of soft tissue structure (e.g., ligaments) after being held in a certain position under load for a long duration of time. If we have poor posture, for example, our soft tissues can undergo creep, affecting the ability of these structures to provide support and stability to our joints. Over time, this can contribute to musculoskeletal injuries.

Top 5 tips for having an ergonomic setup:

  1. Feet Positioning Your feet should be flat on the floor, rather than dangling from the chair or crossing your legs. Sitting cross-legged was previously used for aesthetic or social purposes; however, sitting cross-legged changes the load on our muscles and is often used by people to rest on passive structures instead of using their postural muscles.

  2. Screen Height When sitting upright, the middle of the screen should be at eye level. Looking down for prolonged periods (for example, when using a standard laptop) places an increased load on the muscles of the neck and encourages a chin poke posture, which can lead to neck pain. Taking breaks from screen time can also reduce eye strain and assist with headaches.

  3. Shoulders and Elbows Shoulders should be relaxed, and the shoulders should be in an open position without puffing the chest outwards. Elbows should be close to the side of the body so that our arm and forearm muscles can work in an optimal position without outreaching.

  4. Keyboard and Mouse Having a separate keyboard and mouse that is not connected to the laptop will assist typing. Forearm and wrist pain can sometimes stem from the overuse of fingers and wrists without adequate breaks. Ergonomic mice can assist you if you have pain on wrist extension as it helps to offload these structures. Make sure that the keyboard and mouse are closer to your body so that your elbows and shoulders are not outstretched.

  5. Get Up and Move! The best habit you could be building is to BUST: Break Up Sitting Time. Multiple clinical trials have shown that breaking up sitting time significantly reduces neck, upper body, and low back pain. If rushed for time, you may include a few shoulder and neck rolls and rotate through the back while sitting. If you have the time, standing up and going for a brief walk can make a huge difference (and it is a great excuse to make yourself a cup of tea!).

Many of the adjustments that we can make to an appropriate desk setup do not require fancy or expensive equipment, and there are many affordable options for monitors and keyboards on the market. Having ongoing discomfort or pain when doing desk work should not be accepted as "normal," so make it your 2024 resolution to look after your body at work.

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