If you’ve been ignoring your posture lately, you are opening yourself up for bigger health issues in the future.
This is particularly the case with a lot of us who have work long sedentary hours and completely ignore our computer posture (the way we sit when working with a computer – laptop/desktop).
And the first step in correcting this issue is to realize that this is a problem and is something that can be avoided by really simple steps.
What is a Good Computer Posture?
A good posture is when you have no additional pressure or strain on any of your body.
Even simple things such as staring at our laptop screen for long, not having your chair at the right height, slouching, sitting cross-legged, etc., can lead to posture issues.
You may feel a slight discomfort in the beginning, but if ignored, this can quickly turn into a hazard.
When it comes to bad computer posture, the following factors determine the magnitude of hazard/injury that it can cause:
- How long is the person holding the fixed or static posture?
- How many times is the awkward posture used in a given period of time (repetitive awkward postures)?
- Amount of force by the body being exerted when the awkward posture is used?
With this in mind, let’s see the common posture mistakes people make (which can easily be avoided).
Computer Posture Mistakes
Computer posture mistakes are basically the mistakes in the way we position our body part while using or working on a computer.
When it comes to big joints in your body – such as hips, knees, and elbows – there are ranges of movement that is comfortable.
But if we exert any pressure which is not in this range, it can impact our overall posture.
A comfortable computer posture would not:
- Hamper your breathing or blood circulation
- Interfere with normal muscular action
- Stop the normal functions of internal organs
Here I am listing common computer posture mistakes that people often make.
This is the one that I am guilty of doing again and again. My slouching led to a lot of back pain that finally forced me to adopt a standing desk.
Slouching is bad for your back as it gets devoid of back support. It results in strain and pressure to the spine, pelvis, and the muscles attached to it.
Over time muscles may not be able to support even if you want to sit straight and will need conditioning through exercise.
Slouching puts extra pressure on the shoulders.
Image Source: NHS UK
Put your hips as far as possible into the back of the chair.
The upper and lower back should be supported by the backrest.
Use a small rolled-up towel or cushion for added support. Recline the back of the chair at 100-110 degrees comfortably.
Forward Leaning When Sitting on a Chair
Forward leaning causes stress on the neck and spine and shoulder. It is an unnatural position for the body. It causes extra load on the neck and spine and leads to pain. It causes rounded shoulders and hunched back. It also causes eyes to strain.
Keep your shoulders and neck at a neutral position that is looking straight.
Keep an arm’s distance from the monitor. Your upper and lower back should be supported by back support on the chair.
In case you’re using a standing desk, I would also recommend getting an ergonomic monitor arm to make sure your monitors are at the right height and you’re not putting any strain on your neck.
Computer Screen Placed Too Low or High
A screen placed too high causes poking chin posture and too low causes craning of the neck.
It puts the strain on the neck muscles, upper back and shoulders. Muscles get fatigued and prolonged strain can cause injury.
Image Source: NHS UK
The screen should not be placed high or low but at a straight angle to the eye.
The eye should look at a point just below the upper border of the screen (2-3 inches). Tilt the monitor so that the screen is perpendicular to the line of sight.
It is advisable to buy an ergonomic laptop stand or a movable holder to raise the monitor up to the eye level if the worktable is low.
Separate the screen from the keyboard. If you’re using a laptop, you can buy an additional ergonomic keyboard and an ergonomic mouse to keep the posture correct and the strain on your wrist to a minimum.
Elbows and Hands at an Odd Angle While Typing
While typing there should be no strain on your hands or shoulder.
If your keyboard is placed too high or too low, then your elbows and hands are at awkward angles (which exerts additional pressure on it).
This can lead to pain in the wrists, hands, and shoulders.
Elbows should be as close to the waist as possible and at a 90 degree in relation to the arms.
The wrists should be straight while typing on a keyboard.
Your forearms should be parallel to the floor. If you’re needed to spend a long time typing, use an armrest to relax arms and shoulders after every few minutes.
If possible, use a speech to text voice software from time to time to give rest to hands and wrists while typing.
Cradling the Phone on Your Shoulder
If a lot of your time is spent on the phone, it can lead to a lot of strain in your neck and shoulder (especially if you’re in a habit of cradling the phone to keep your hands free).
Cradling the phone on one side of the shoulder causes stiffness and pain in the neck and shoulder. It also leads to an imbalance of muscles used on one side.
Image Source: NHS UK
The best way to tackle this is to use a headset or a speaker. It will make sure your neck is relaxed and is not tilted to one side.
If this is not an option, avoid cradling the phone, even if it means using one hand to hold the phone.
Legs and Feet Away From Body
Legs and feet, when placed away from the body, are at their extreme end of the motion.
It causes stress and strain on the muscles of the legs and spine and pelvis.
Keep feet flat on the floor with knees at a position equal to or lower than hips.
Keep your feet parallel to the floor or use an inclined footrest. Inclination helps the feet relax and take off pressure from the inner thigh.
Keep plenty of space available underneath the desk for movement of thighs, legs, and feet. There should be a good amount of space between the thigh and underside of the desk. Do not store things under your desk to allow free space.
Thighs should rest horizontally with a 100-110 degree angle at the hips.
Keeping things of Immediate Use Far Away
Keeping things of immediate use far away leads to repetitive reaching out which tires the muscles.
If we place the document we are typing from on the side, it leads to awkward movements like twists and turns of the head, neck, and shoulders. This can lead to strain.
It is called repetitive strain injury.
Keep everything you frequently use close to you.
They should all be at the same level.
Arrange these items in a semicircle around you. Keep the items you use less frequently slightly away.
Use an ergonomically designed document holder right in front or side of the monitor at eye level so you can read and type looking straight.
Being in one posture for a long time
Being in one posture for long is hazardous as it causes extra strain on the muscles used.
A continuous fixed static position compresses the nerves and reduces blood supply to the muscles. It makes the muscles tired and more prone to injury.
Change positions frequently to use a different set of muscles and to get a good blood supply.
Alternate between sitting and standing.
Use breaks and micro pauses. After every 30 mins, take a micro-break and after every hour, get up and walk around for 5 mins.
Keep drinking a good amount of water so you can go to loo frequently.
Every few minutes, look away from the screen at a point in the distance. Put an alarm and do stretches for 5 mins after every two hours.
We tend to blink less when working on a computer. Try and blink eyes more often.
These are some of the common computer posture mistakes that people make, which can easily be avoided. A lot of these issues can be sorted by small actions such as adjusting the height of the chair or getting an additional keyboard/mouse.
You May Also Like the Following Ergonomic Tips/Articles:
- Typing Ergonomics: 7 Tips to Avoid Injuries While Working
- Ergonomic Tips to Prevent Neck, Back, and Shoulder Pain.
- Laptop Ergonomics – 7 Tips to be More Efficient at Work
- How to Setup an Ergonomic Workstation.
- Common Computer Injuries and How to Avoid These.
- Driving Ergonomics – 7 Tips to Make Your Journey better
- Ergonomic Risk Factors