Computers play a central role in many of our daily activities, whether we’re at school, work or home. Considering the amount of time we spend sitting in front of the screen, it is important to consider ergonomic computer options.
According to OSHA, the following specifications must be facilitated by your computer space in order for it to be considered ergonomic:
Screen at or just below eye level
Neck in line with torso and head centered
Elbows close to body and supported on arm rests
Wrists and hands aligned with forearms
Adequate space allowed for keyboard and mouse
Feet flat on the floor
Traditionally, it is also considered ergonomic to have 90 degree angles at the hip between the upper and lower body, the knee between the thigh and calf and the elbow between the upper and lower arm.
Computers and Keyboards
When choosing a computer, the desktop has one clear advantage over the laptop: separate keyboard. This allows the monitor to be set higher than the keyboard and in line with the eyes, encouraging the head and neck to stay aligned.
Laptops are becoming more adjustable, though. Separate keyboards can be purchased for laptops, although this does conflict with the laptop’s main advantages, which are compactness and portability. There are also laptop stands that allow you to open the computer wide, positioning the screen significantly higher than the keyboard. This has the drawback of requiring a number of other adjustments; with the keyboard more vertical, you will need to recline your seat way back in order to keep your wrists aligned with the forearms as well as a 90 degree angle between the upper and lower arm. This reclined position would also cause need for a wedged footrest.
A laptop these days will accomodate most users with ergonomic design. The capacity to elevate the computers’ screen, which would be the best option for making laptops ergonomic. This style of laptop is definitely available to anyone who wants it.
Laptops with wrist rests in front of the keyboard space encourage you to maintain wrist and forearm alignment, reducing the risk of wrist injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
It is important to have a desk that allows the keyboard and monitor of a desktop computer to be set at different levels. There may be a keyboard tray that pulls in and out or a separate level to the desk. Desks should be adjustable to tailor appropriate monitor and keyboard height.
Even an adjustable ergonomic desk may end up being too high for you. Using a footrest will ensure that you can maintain proper angling of joints and reduce stress to the hips and knees.
Some people have begun using standing desks while at work to alleviate the stresses and strains of prolonged sitting. These desks have similar ergonomic considerations as sitting desks, but only for the upper body.
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For those who can’t afford a pricey ergonomic chair or who just want to try something new, sitting on an exercise ball has gained popularity in the office and at home. Balancing on the ball requires core engagement, which both encourages optimum posture and gives you a low-grade core workout.
Kneeling chairs are also available. These include a knee rest and seat for your buttocks. Kneeling chairs create an obtuse angle between your upper and lower body, which can decrease the pressure on your lower back and the tension in your hips. As with any position, it is still necessary to move around from time to time, as the kneeling chair does put pressure on the knees.
Paying attention to OSHA’s guidelines and being aware of what is available can help free you of sitting back pain when on the computer. Whether at work or home, you can tailor your environment to suit the needs of your body.