Correct sitting posture for working at a computer Knowledge Base
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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.

Ergonomics

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.

physiotherapy workspace posture assessment

Here are some general guidelines to help you at work if your jobs requires long periods sat in front of a computer.

Move regularly:

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.

correct workstation sitting posture

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.

KEY POINTS

  • 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.

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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.

* Please note: If your treatment costs are to be paid directly by your health insurance company, we kindly ask that you contact us by phone or email to arrange your appointment.

0161 426 0100

enquiries@marplephysio.com

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James B.
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I had a sports massage with Nicky. Overall, a brilliant service which I would highly recommend.
Mark B.
14:42 11 Jul 21
I received fantastic service from Marple Physiotherapy and my physiotherapist Nicky. The causes of my hip injury were investigated and clearly explained, and I was given several recovery exercises to follow. All in all a very rigorous, personable, and tailored experience. Would highly recommend.
Ste W.
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I went to Marple Physiotherapy after I slipped on the ice with my dog and hurt my neck/shoulder. After many sleepless nights in agony I went to see Liz, who over a few visits worked wonders and had me pain free and most importantly got me my full movement back in my right arm. Everything from what she did in the practice to the exercises see gave me to do at home is geared up to promote a speedy recovery and her knowledge is incredible.Can’t recommend them enough, would definitely suggest a visit if you have any aches or pains.
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I arranged with Nicky for some physio on my father’s shoulder at short notice as my dad was in a lot of pain.He is so happy with the Sevice and effort Nicky gave him today and is very pleased with the results already. Thanks so much for looking after him. He will be returning next week..
Clare M.
11:31 19 Apr 20
Before lockdown I started treatment with Julie on my C-section scar. I have suffered with pain, aggressively red looking scar which was hypertrophic for a year. After a discussion and 3 sessions with Julie I saw an improvement. We did specific massage, which involved super gentle movement technique, along with an ultrasound treatment. Julie explained exactly how to treat my scar at home so I could continue with the movement technique myself.The scar is now less aggressive looking and in parts starting to turn skin colour and has more movement all along the scar. Although not 100% pain free just yet, it is a massive improvement.If you have any scar pain then I highly recommend having a chat with Julie and she can talk you through what treatment is best suited to you.
Jaione I.
08:45 28 Mar 20
I've been to this physio due to aches and pains during my pregnancy and the experience was great. Very helpful and professional. Highly recommended!
Katamari G.
08:55 27 Mar 20
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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