Sitting at a desk and working on a computer can be very productive. Compared to standing on concrete, it is much more comfortable. This I know from personal experience. I had a job once where I worked in an assembly line while standing on concrete. That job lasted 1 week. It’s the only job that I have ever had where I didn’t put in my two week notice when I left it. The pain in my back was excruciating. But guess what? Sitting at a desk can be almost as painful. It’s deceivingly problematic.
Much of where the pain comes from is poor office ergonomics. What does that mean? What I mean by that is, how is your work station set up? Is the way that your computer and chair setup causing pain more than just the fact that you have to actually work? So how does office ergonomics make your back hurt? A question that I end up asking my patients when they complain of their back or neck hurting while at work is, “Do you work on a laptop or do you use a tower? If they say laptop, it is an easy explanation of how having your head looking down all the time will lead to an increase amount of stress on the neck and upper back muscles. If they answer “Tower”, then it becomes a little more difficult.
If they are using a tower, then we have to address a few items. The first and foremost is the computer monitor. If the monitor is too low, it will be very similar to the laptop problem. Constant looking down, strains the neck and back, leads to pain. The center of the monitor needs to be eye level. If it is not, then you need to change it. If it is too low, can you lower your chair? If you can, great! Unfortunately, by lowering your chair, you potentially just created the next problem, and that is your keyboard.
You need to have your arms resting down to eliminate any excessive contraction of the Trapezius muscles which pull up your shoulders. If your keyboard is sitting on top of the desk, chances are that your arms have to be elevated to effectively type. By lowering your chair to center the monitor, you have just increased the tension in your neck and shoulders. So the next obvious solution is to lower the keyboard as well. This may not be possible though. So you can raise your chair to let your shoulders hang and have your arms at a relaxed 90 degree angle, but we are back to the monitor problem. So a possible solution is to raise your computer monitor. This just may be the easiest solution of all.
As long as you have your arms relaxed at a 90 degree angle and have your monitor centered with your eyes, you should be set up just right. Until we take into consideration, your chair.
Your chair has a big to do with your back and neck pain as well. If you are sitting a chair that is old, breaking down, or with poor back support, no matter what you do with your computer, it won’t fix the problem. So if your chair is your old favorite that you have had since you first started working 20 years ago, you may want to look into getting a new chair and fix the other stuff too.