Four steps to improving your office ergonomics
GEHA | July 6, 2021
At this point in the pandemic, many workers are either ensconced in their makeshift home offices or preparing to transition back to the office.
Either way, it’s always worth taking a few minutes to make sure your workspace is situated to prevent back and neck pain or sore wrists and fingers. Here are some elements to look for:
- Make sure your monitor is an arm’s length away and slightly below your eye line.
- When using the keyboard or mouse, your wrists should be straight and your hands should be at or below elbow-level.
- Your chair should be at a height where the knees are level with the hips and your feet should rest flat on the floor.
- If your job requires frequent phone conversations or typing and talking, use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and shoulder.
Addressing these needs will improve the ergonomics of your office, reducing stress on the body from working in an awkward position or repeating movement.
Over time, poor posture or repetitive stress can also lead to muscle strain or other soft tissue problems. When this occurs, it can be hard to focus on anything besides the pain, particularly in the lower back.
Studies show that getting X-rays, CT scans or MRIs of the lower spine before six weeks have passed since the pain started does not improve outcomes – but it does increase costs. Most patients recover within several weeks. Disc herniations usually regress or reabsorb within eight weeks.
Risks associated with the mentioned imaging tests include radiation exposure, more unnecessary treatment and an increase in surgery. An exception to imaging would be when the doctor’s evaluation shows red flags, including a fever, sudden back pain with spinal tenderness, loss of bladder or bowel control, trauma or serious underlying medical condition such as cancer.
For acute back pain, try hot or cold packs. Consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter pain relievers, as they may interact negatively with current, ongoing medication you may be taking. Bed rest is not recommended. Continue your activities as much as you can tolerate. Stop activity that increases pain, but don’t avoid activity out of fear of pain. If home treatments aren’t working after several weeks, your doctor might suggest stronger medications or other therapies. Alternative therapies include spinal manipulation by a chiropractor, massage, physical therapy, traction and acupuncture.
“Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide.” mayclinic.org, Mayo Clinic, 23 April, 2021.
“Back Pain – diagnosis and treatment.” mayoclinic.org, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 21 August, 2020.
“Use of imaging studies for low back pain (LBP).” www.ncqa.org, National Committee for Quality Assurance, 22 December, 2020.