What is the correct sitting posture when working at a computer or laptop?
Many of us that spend at least three hours per week in front of a screen. We would expect to experience discomfort as a result of doing three hours of exercise. Sitting still for this period also puts a strain on our musculoskeletal system and often results in lower back or neck pain.
The human body is designed to move regularly, we evolved to hunt and forage, not to build a trap then sit and wait. In the modern world although our lifestyles have changed significantly from our hunter gatherer days, our muscles and joints still need movement to stay healthy and pain free.
As occupational health Physiotherapists, we strive to achieve the optimum balance between the use of modern technology to maximise work efficiency and the toll it can take on the user, this is known as ergonomics. We assess individual’s working conditions and the tasks they need to perform and put in place solutions to maximise efficiency and minimise injury.
Here are some general guidelines to help you at work if your jobs requires long periods sat in front of a computer.
Take regular breaks to move as often as you can, setting a reminder on your computer to get up and walk around or stretch every hour.
Sit on a suitable chair:
Your computer user chair should have a stable base (such as a five-star castor base) and a minimum of three adjustment features to comply with Health and Safety display screen equipment (DSE) regulations (1992).
- Height adjustable seat
- Height adjustable backrest
- Tilt adjustable backrest
If you regularly work at a computer for more than one hour and your chair has not got these features, then we advise that you invest in one. These can be purchased from around £50 mark and it’s a good investment.
How to set up your computer workstation correctly.
The first feature to set is the seat height. Sit up tall on your seat, allow your shoulders to relax and let your elbows fall to your sides (not onto armrests). Adjust your seat height so your elbows are level with the desk surface. This is so you can keep your shoulders and arms relaxed when typing to help prevent neck pain and upper limb pain.
- If your feet cannot be placed flat on the floor you need a footrest. Unsupported feet is likely to result in strain in the lower back.
- If your feet can be placed flat on the floor, you do NOT need a foot rest. If you use a footrest when it’s not needed, you’ll probably be making your knees higher than your hips and this can flatten your natural lower back curve, which over time might cause lower back pain.
- If you cannot fit your knees under your desk with your elbows level with the desk surface then you need a higher desk or you will probably be slumping forward when working at your computer. Usually this can be achieved with putting desk risers (purpose-made small plastic or wooden blocks) under the desk feet.
- If you cannot raise the chair high enough to get your elbows level with the desk surface, you need a chair with a taller gas stem. Otherwise you will may shrug your shoulders or hold your elbows out to the side when typing: this can contribute to neck pain and other common upper limb disorders such repetitive strain injuries (RSI), carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Next, raise the backrest so the curve of the seat fits in with the natural curve (lordosis) of your lumbar spine. If you are not sure where this is, stand up and run the back of your hand up and down your lower back. The apex of your ‘lordosis’ is the deepest part of the curve above your buttocks, this is more pronounced on some than others. Keep your hand on that point on your back and sit back down on your chair – this is the point to where you need to raise the curve of the backrest.
You can also adjust the backrest tilt setting. There is no perfect position for this and this can be re-adjusted intermittently throughout a working day. You can choose to be supported in an upright position whilst typing and you can recline the back for reading a document or from tablet or talking to someone on the phone.
If you have armrests adjust these so you can position your chair close enough to your desk without overreaching. If you can’t do this, consider taking the armrests off your chair.
After you have adjusted your chair make sure you are sitting square on to your computer, your mouse and keyboard are within easy reach if your elbows are relaxed at your sides and there is an equal balance of regularly used equipment and documents to both sides.
- There is no single perfect posture for someone to maintain all day
- There is no perfect setting for your DSE user chair to be kept in all day
- MOVEMENT IS KEY – Make sure you stand up for 5 minutes in every hour and go for a short walk in your lunch break.
If you have set up your workstation as advised above and are still experiencing difficulties, please contact us to discuss how we can help. Our occupational health Physiotherapist Nicola Jackson has been a member of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics (ACPOHE) for 8 years and has vast experience of assessing all types of workplaces, from manufacturing plants and factories to high street banks and call centres.
To book your consultation please complete our online booking form.
If you would like to know more about how we can help you, please contact us and one of our friendly team will be happy to discuss your needs, without obligation.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) update
Our face-to-face physiotherapy appointments and Pilates classes have returned.
We are now able to offer face-to-face physiotherapy appointments following an initial remote consultation and screening assessment. Please read our Visiting the Clinic leaflet for further information.
Onsite ergonomic workstation assessments can also be conducted where social distancing can be maintained.
For those who are unable to attend the clinic or classes in person, remote consultations and online classes will be continuing. Please read our remote consultation instructions for further guidance.
Here's what our clients say.
At Marple Physio we pride ourselves on our excellent reputation. We therefore highly value the patient feedback we receive as we continually strive to improve our services.
If you are an existing client, we’d love you to leave us your feedback on your experience of our services, treatment or care.
Fantastic service from day one. Fixed my leg injury. Really pleased with the care given. Thank you.
I have seen a few physios and a chiropractor over the past ten years and Liz is the only person who identified that I had a falling arch and not only recommended the right orthotics with a raise but also suggested some compromises so I could still wear a raise with holiday footwear. She also showed me some exercises specific to my problems (not just some print out of generic back exercises). Through her treatment, the exercises and orthotics I feel I have a long term solution for the first time in 25 years (since an accident) that has actually also fixed knee and foot pain and neck pain and headaches that I never realised were related. I would highly recommend her as someone who genuinely tries to help fix the problem not just temporarily relieve pain.
Couldn’t ask for a better team to help get me back on my feet! Liz is very patient and motivating! The reception team are extremely helpful and go above and beyond to help with any issues you may have. I am so glad I found Marple Physio to help me through a very difficult time in my life. Thank you all!
Top marks for everything. Prior to my knee replacement surgery, Liz has been working hard to get me in the best possible condition. Her expertise and her pleasant manner have made the sessions very rewarding. I would thoroughly recommend this practice in every way.
I was incredibly impressed with my treatment at Marple Physio. They took the time to listen to what the cause of the issue was and then looked at different treatments to resolve the issue. The treatment must have worked as I was able to complete the half marathon that I’d been training for (relatively) pain free, having only been able to run a few kilometres at most prior to my treatment. I have since recommended Marple Physio to a number of people.
In over 65 years I had never visited or needed to visit a Physio. That was until firstly I had a knee problem and the for the first time in my life a back problem. Both down to excessive golf. Well Elizabeth who treated me was wonderful. She identified the problems immediately and with the minimum number of visits cleared my problems. Lovely manner and would not hesitate to recommend.
Big thanks to Marple Physio for sorting out my sciatica. After months of suffering you diagnosed the cause, (tight muscle) and arranged treatment. Wouldn’t hesitate in recommending you!
Thoroughly satisfied with treatment. My daughter Grace had a sports problem with her foot which was extremely distressing for her. She was unable to get an urgent appointment with the lower limb specialist but was seen by the team at Marple Physio – who were fantastic. Helpful, reassuring and made some great suggestions and gave exercises which have been really beneficial. Her problem has been hard to diagnose but the help and treatment has been great and thank you for strapping Grace’s foot for a big running event. It worked and she was delighted with the strapping. I would highly recommend Marple Physio and the specific tailored treatment offered. Reception staff also very nice.
I don’t usually comment on these things but I thought I had to. The Marple team were simply wonderful. I have had lower back pain for 15 years or so and had given up hope of being pain free. Marple Physio listened very carefully to my problems. I then was put through my paces including working my feet and toes. I felt light after the first session and by week three I was nearly pain free. Magic, simply magic.
I found the service and treatment excellent. I would definitely recommend Marple Physio to others and would use them again should the need ever arise. Many Thanks.
I had a persistent calf injury and had already seen several other physios without success. I was recommended Marple Physio by a friend from Stockport Harriers. They were very accommodating when I called to book an appointment and Liz managed to diagnose and sort the calf injury in 3 sessions. I left pain free and with strict instructions to continue my stretching homework to avoid further calf issues. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.
Marple Physio are really excellent. They helped me through a complicated hip injury – adjusting treatments and exercises regularly after listening carefully to my feedback. I’ve just completed the London Marathon and it’s all thanks to Liz and the team. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others.
Wonderful to find a physio who spoke to me like a person and not an idiot, clearly explained my injury and went through treatment options along with her recommendations. Would definitely recommend to anyone – especially those who like to try to understand the physiology of their problem.
Fabulous, a true assessment of what I needed and how I could achieve it, with a personally tailored plan that fitted my lifestyle and abilities.
I was referred to you from my specialist at the Alexandra Hospital. I was really pleased with my treatment and the help I was given. I have finally had treatment that works for me. Will definitely come back for help if required. Many thanks.
Unfortunately for me, I have had quite a few back problems over the past few years. Fortunately, Marple Physio is nearby and Liz and the team have done a fabulous job of unpeeling all the layers and getting to the root of the problem each time. Being treated with a combination of manipulation, acupuncture and Pilates exercises means I now have a much stronger core and I know how to keep it that way! A big thank you to you all.
I am very pleased with the fantastic treatment I received from Liz for headaches. She was very professional and friendly and I would happily recommend her to others.
Every time I came for an appointment I went away very satisfied. All the staff are very friendly and professional. I would recommend Marple Physio and they will be my first choice if I need more treatment.
After six weeks of neck and shoulder pain, it was a total relief to receive professional and expert advice with successful treatment over four sessions.
I use Marple Physio for my physio, podiatry and Pilates needs, the service has always been both professional and caring. I am greeted with a friendly welcome and I feel the treatment is continually tailored to my needs.
Elizabeth’s expert diagnosis and treatment which included massage, acupuncture and targeted Pilates exercises resolved a backache and sciatica problem I have had for several years. Many thanks to Liz and the team.
Myself and my 16 year old daughter have had to use Marple Physio several times for various injuries. The service is excellent. I have no hesitation in recommending them. The quality of care is outstanding. They are friendly team and professional and have always been able to sort out our various aches and pains. If ever I have any musculoskeletal problems, I would always go straight to Marple Physio rather than see a GP. They have a far wider and much more suitable range of care options and offer a far more thorough service than I would ever get in a 10min appointment at the GP.
I really cannot recommend this practice highly enough. After two years of chronic pain, I am finally on the road to recovery, thanks to the help of the physiotherapists at Marple Physio. I also had my first video consultation appointment with Nicky yesterday, something the practice has introduced now face to face appointments are not currently possible. I was unsure how a video consultation would work, but I found it to be extremely useful. I have been experiencing a flare up of symptoms over the last few weeks, and Nicky did a fantastic job of suggesting exercises and movements I could use to help with them. She demonstrated moves, observed how I was moving, and I feel confident I now have some new things to try, to help relieve symptoms. I would definitely recommend a video consultation, to anyone wondering if it might be helpful.
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