A Guide to Sitting Ergonomically Correct

These days many of us are spending countless hours in front of our computers. For some it’s because they use a computer all day long at their job. For others it’s because they spend all their free time typing email messages and using instant messenger.

For seven years I have taught keyboarding and other computer applications courses at the junior college level. Before my students are allowed to touch the keyboard I teach them how to sit correctly in order to avoid a repetitive stress disorder, such as carpel tunnel.

Most of the time the reason someone feels pain while they are keyboarding is because of the way they are holding their wrists or hands is causing a nerve to be pinched. My classes are held in the evenings so most of my students have worked a full eight hours before coming to my class. I tell my students that no matter how long or how hard their day was keyboarding should never hurt.

I know firsthand how uncomfortable it can be if you are sitting in an incorrect position. Before I started teaching I worked as a computer programmer. Everyday I would have pain in my neck that by the end of the day made me feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I also found that sometimes when I would stand up I felt as though my hip on one side had gone out from underneath me. I thought that these aches and pains were normal for someone who sat all day at a computer and had a stressful job.

My employer sponsored an ergonomics workshop. The presenter even came back to my workstation to help figure out what was causing my problems. My computer monitor was placed off to the side so I had to turn my head to look at it. That twisting was what was causing my stiff neck and that feeling of my hip going out. This was due to a pinching of my sciatic nerve.

Once I changed my workstation around I found that afternoon that I was no longer in any pain. It took some creative thinking to pull it off especially since I am visually impaired and need my monitor close to me to see it.

Here are some basic principles to follow to make sure you are doing all you can to prevent repetitive stress disorders. Your feet should be flat on the floor. If for some reason your feet don’t reach the floor than use either a foot stool designed to fit under your desk. An old telephone book can also work well. Do not cross your legs, this can also cause pinching of your nerves in your legs or back.

Your back should be resting on the back of your chair, no leaning forward. The best kind of chair to use at your desk is an office chair that has lumbar support. You can tell if a chair has lumbar support if it has a rounded area that fits the small of your back.

Your wrists can be resting on the desk. They need to be aligned with your elbows. Sometimes a wrist rest can provide extra comfort. Do not keep your wrists two close to your body because that can also cause pain. Find a comfortable distance in front of you on your desk to place your arms. Your keyboard should be flat on the desk. Many keyboards have little stands that flip down that elevate the top of the keyboard. Only use these if you have small fingers, otherwise keep your keyboard in the flat position.

When you look away from your monitor and then look back your eyes should naturally rest in the middle of your screen. If they don’t and rest somewhere above the screen your monitor might be too short for you. This can be fixed by placing a phonebook underneath your monitor to raise it. Mainly people who are very tall have trouble with this.

If you feel pain in:

Your back = your chair does not have lumbar support or you are leaning too far forward or your computer and monitor is not directly in front of you

Your neck = your monitor is either too high or too low

Your wrists = they could be too close to your body or you may not have them lined up with your elbows

Your hands or fingers = your keyboard might be raised when it really needs to be flat

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