Updated: Aug 14
Working from home has created a ton of benefits, but has also created some new challenges. Each day we learn about new health problems associated with prolonged sitting. It has never been more important to have the best sitting posture at your desk!
How can you achieve the best sitting posture at your desk?
Whether you are back in the office or working from your home office, that is a lot of sitting.
Tip 1: Keep Your Elbows at 90 Degrees.
When working at your desk, your elbows should rest comfortably with a 90 degrees bend at the elbow joint.
If your arms are extended straight and reach for the keyboard, then the desk is too low.
This 90-degree angle in the elbows will prevent hunching from getting a too-low keyboard or raising your shoulders to work on a too-high keyboard.
This relaxed position of the elbows will take some pressure off the wrists.
If you have noticed more wrist pain at the end of your workday or have suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, the first order of business is to check your desk height.
Most desks are not adjustable; what you see is what you get.
If you are very tall, you can add a block to the table legs to raise the desk to the correct height.
If you are short and find that when you type, your arms are all scrunched up, you will need to bring yourself up to the desk level.
Since your work surface cannot be lowered, we will use this to gauge where the chair height and other desk settings should be.
Raise your chair height until that 90-degree angle is created at the elbow.
Tip 2: Keep Your Hips and Knees at 90 Degrees.
When sitting, you want the angle at your hips, and the angle of your knees to both be bent at 90 degrees.
Tip 3: Keep Your Feet Flat on the Floor.
Almost everyone I see in my office tells me that they cross their legs when they work or put their feet up on some part of the desk in front of them.
If this sounds like you are at work, you are not alone.
People cross their legs for many different reasons – their chair is too high, it has become a habit, and their chair is uncomfortable – the reasons vary.
Over time this can lead to low back and even some hip pain.
It’s almost like holding a Figure 4 or Pigeon Pose stretches for hours.
Placing your feet flat on the floor helps provide a stable base and takes some of the strain off the lumbar spine.
The majority of the patients I see in my office sit in too high chairs, causing their heels to hover just above the floor.
At this point, most people start crossing their legs, leaning to one side, or propping their feet up in front of them.
When the chair is too high, the muscles in the low back do more work to keep you in that sitting position.
Muscles like Psoas and the low back stabilization muscles can become hypertonic (tight) and create low back pain if not addressed.
I’ve just spent the first half of this blog discussing setting your table and chair to create the 90/90/90 position with the knees, hips, and elbows.
If you were following along, I’m sure your feet are dangling right now.
So how are you going to get your feet flat?
Remember, we still want that 90-degree knee bend.
Tip 4: Sit Back in Your Chair.
Now that the chair is set to the correct height, the next step is to sit back in the chair.
This is no problem for the tall readers out there, but for short people like me, you may find this more difficult.
The chair seat should extend from the area just behind the knee (with approximately 1-2 inches of play) and support your entire hamstring region extending to the buttock.
The seat of the chair should transition seamlessly to the seat’s backrest to support your lumbar spine.
Tip 5: Use a Lumbar Support.
Many office chairs have adjustable lumbar support.
If your chair has a setting that is comfortable for you, great!
Set the support to be comfortable while also compiling with the other parameters we have discussed above.
Tip 6: View Your Screen at Eye Level.
With many jobs turning to virtual options for their workers, I have seen an uptick of people now working on their portable laptops.
While laptops can be convenient, they are not ergonomic. The display area is small and misaligned with the head and eyes when the laptop is set up on a desk.
The keyboard tends to be ergonomically poor and can be difficult to view (requiring frequent slouching to see the keyboard icons).
For older workers, bifocals add an extra dimension to the ballet of data entry, collaborative conferencing, and screens designed for the younger generation.
Throughout the workday, this can lead to neck pain, headaches, and in some cases radiating pain and numbness.
If desired, external monitors with adequate brightness and acuity can also be purchased to add ergonomic benefits to your desk setup.
The peripherals can be aligned to support our 90/90/90 construct, and the screen can be lifted to eye level to help take some of the strain off the cervical spine.
Tip 7: Stand Regularly and Move.
Now your desk and chair are set for success, but that doesn’t mean you can sit and work for 8 hours straight.
Sitting puts a lot of strain on the lumbar discs, even with all the system configuration and setup tips we discussed.
To help relieve some of this stress, it is recommended that you stand and move around frequently throughout your workday.
Use that time to refill your water bottle to help keep you hydrated or perform a couple of the postural exercises your chiropractor showed you the last time you were in the office.
I usually tell my patients to try to stand for 10 minutes every hour.
If you are having a hard time remembering when to stand, set a timer on your phone to help you keep track of the time.
Have any questions or concerns? Reach out to us and we will be happy to help!