Proper Sitting Posture
By Allan O. Fiesta, PT, DPT
Proper Sitting Posture
Ergonomics can be generally defined as the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment as it pertains to improving body mechanics by modifying their workspace to prevent further injury. Whether you are an elementary school teacher or electrical engineer, proper sitting posture is very important. It should be observed and adjusted properly to accommodate each person’s work station to prevent musculoskeletal injuries that can likely cause neck and/ or low back pain. Proper posture involves modifying your work station and re-training your body to sit, stand, and lie in the position where the least amount of strain and/ or stress is placed on the supporting skeletal structures, surrounding musculature, and ligaments.
For proper sitting posture, the shoulders should be down and back. Your head should not be leaning forward but inline with the body. You should sit as upright as possible with your bottom all the way to the back of the seat. (roughly 90-120 degrees of hip flexion). When sitting at a desk, elbows should be close to the body and at about the level of the keyboard. This helps to avoid shrugging and stress to the shoulder complexes (elbows should be at about 90-120 degrees of flexion). Using a chair with a contoured backrest or implementing a small lumbar pillow will help support your back.
These simple modifications to your work chair can be used to accommodate the natural curvature of the spine. It provides support to the lumbar spine when sitting for extended periods of time. Chair has armrests should support the arms in this neutral (90-120 degrees of elbow flexion). While sitting your feet should comfortably reach the floor. Use of a footrest helps offload the pressure on your knees. This will assist to avoid occluding blood vessels in the back of the knee.
When looking forward at the computer or tablet monitor, the top of the viewing area should sit either at or below one’s eye level. The distance from the monitor to one’s head should be roughly an arm’s length away from the screen to avoid excessive cervical flexion or extension when sitting in this neutral position. Next, locate the mouse next to the keyboard and ensure that both elbows are by the sides during work. One may use a mouse pad or another soft surface to pad the edge of the desk, which will help avoid excess pressure on the hands or forearms against any sharp edges on the desk.
Wrists and Elbows
With your elbows now comfortably resting on the desktop or keyboard level, the wrists should be straight or in a neutral position where they can gently rest in front of the keyboard or mouse. You may use a wrist rest if desired to achieve this optimal wrist position when using desktop accessories such as a mouse. However, this is not always necessary.
Finally, when fine-tuning the ergonomics of one’s desk space, it is important to take breaks from sitting every 30 minutes to ensure proper blood flow and reduce fatigue by increasing oxygen to the brain. Though we as a society tend to get caught up on the computer until the final hour, it is important to remember that subtle modifications to one’s workstation and daily routine can reduce the risk for lower back or cervical injuries in the workplace.
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