I most often hear people blame their chair when they’re uncomfortable at their computer workstation, but in reality, a common cause for their actual discomfort, is the incorrect placement of their monitor, particularly when the monitor is placed too far.
A monitor position that is too far from the user causes people to lean forwards away from the backrest to lean in towards the monitor.
This causes prolonged slouching and poking chin postures, creating pressure on joints in the upper neck causing headaches, and over activation of the upper trapezius muscles leading to neck pain as well as high compression on the lumbar spinal discs leading to back pain.
So, how do we fix this? Buy a new chair? Of course not. If you’re sitting badly, always check that when leaning backwards against your chair, if you place your arms in front of you like Frankenstein, your fingers touch the screen. If they don’t, bring your screen closer.
At the same time, ensure that your forearms are supported either on your desk, or on your armrests. This will differ depending on other factors in your setup.
Please join the conversation, ask questions, make comments or share with friends and colleagues if you found this helpful.
Working from home has become the new normal and even when life returns to the “old normal” at some point, many people will still continue to work from home, if not full time, then certainly for a portion of a working week.
This has meant that kitchen tables amongst other things have become the new working desk with a definite uptick in neck and back pain and headaches.
The point of this post is to explain how to sit comfortably at the kitchen table or other desk while working at your laptop, especially without accessories, since most people don’t have them.
There are 4 main elements of your sitting posture that you need to be aware of to reduce any body discomfort especially neck and back pain as well as headaches:
Keep your head in a neutral position i.e. looking straight ahead at your screen. This may mean dropping your chair so that your head is at the same height as the laptop screen or choosing a lower chair.
Looking down for too long will give you neck pain as well as a stiffer neck which long term could lead to pain in the arms.
Looking up at a screen will quickly give you both neck pain and headaches.
Keep your elbows at an open angle above 90 degrees.
If your elbows have an angle less then 90 degrees and close to your body, it causes your upper trapezius muscles to contract and after time you will end up with neck pain.
Make sure that your screen is arms’ length away when sitting back in your chair and not further, unless your spectacles require it.
With your screen too far away, when you concentrate you will find yourself leaning forwards to look at your screen resulting in slouching and poking chin postures.
Result: back pain, neck pain and headaches.
Don’t let your legs hang even slightly off the ground.
If your legs are hanging even slightly, you will either lean forwards and slouch to get your feet to touch the floor or leave them hanging uncomfortably. Both end in back pain.
Find a firm box or ream of paper to put your feet on. Anything that caves in will strain your body and reduce your concentration.
Join the conversation, Questions? Comments?Useful? Please share with someone who you think this could help.
A pounding headache. Thump, thump, thump…. Who of us, stuck behind a computer for hours, has not experienced this?
Headaches and neck pain are very common in office workers and have a debilitating affect on our mood, concentration levels and productivity.
Since headaches are so common, it’s worthwhile understanding what can predispose us to developing a headache in the work place. What are some of the common causes for developing headaches at work?
Glare on your computer screen
Glare can be a real problem in the office, especially when it causes you a headache. To resolve glare, you need to first find the source of your glare. Is your glare coming from the light above you or is your glare coming from a window? To help reduce glare, you may need to move your computer screen and sometimes even your desk so that the glare is no longer a problem. If that’s not an option, you can get anti-glare films to put onto your computer screen or even changing the angle of your screen to reduce the glare may help. If the glare is from a window, consider blinds or curtains to help address the problem. Speak to your co-workers, I’m sure that they will understand that headaches caused by glare are not fun and then they will be more willing to help you find a solution.
Working for too long without a break is a common mistake that most people make. We forget that we are not robots, and that our bodies require time out to function properly. Read my post on work breaks to learn more.
4. Tension in your neck muscles
Tension in your neck muscles will most certainly cause both neck pain and headaches. This tension will be created as a result of stress or poor posture at your desk. Read my post on stress and neck pain to learn more.
5. Using the wrong spectacle prescription
Using the wrong spectacle prescription while working at a computer or reading will strain your eye muscles that commonly leads to headaches. When last did you have your eyes checked?
6. Not drinking enough water
When you are dehydrated, one of the symptoms is a headache. You may be dehydrated because you don’t enjoy drinking water, or because you’ve been drinking too much coffee and tea which stimulates your body to eliminate water. However, if you drink too much water, and eliminate too many salts from your body in the process, you may also develop a headache. Moderation is key.
When you don’t eat properly, you affect the finely tuned equilibrium that your body is constantly seeking and designed to seek. When you don’t eat properly, you affect the sugar levels in your blood and low blood sugar levels trigger a system of responses that can lead you to experiencing a headache. Do you often suffer from headaches and do you also eat badly? Have you had your blood sugar levels tested? Maybe it’s time to go see your GP and maybe a nutritionist to help you look after yourself better.
Overall, working for long hours without a break can cause many of the problems mentioned above. Too many people tend to neglect themselves at work, without realising that doing so negatively affects their work and their health. Are you one of them?
Johnston V., Souvlis T., Jimmieson N.L., Jull G. 2007. “Associations between individual and workplace risk factors for self-reported neck pain and disability among female office workers.” Applied Ergonomics 39: 171-182.
Grimby-Ekman A., Andersson E.M., Hagberg M. 2009. “Analysing musculoskeletal neck pain, measured as present pain and periods of pain, with three different regression models: a cohort study.” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 10 (73). doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-10-73.
Helland M., H. G. (2008). Musculoskeletal, visual and psychosocial stress in VDU operators after moving to an ergonomically designed office landscape. Applied Ergonomics, 39, 284-295.
Malinska M., B. J. (2010). The Influence of Occupational and Non- Occupational Factors on the Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Complaints in Users of Portable Computers. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics (JOSE), 16(3), 337–343.
Wahlstrom J., H. M. (2004, June). Perceived muscular tension, job strain, physical exposure and associations with neck pain amongst BDU users: a prospective cohort study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 61(6), 523-528.
Wahlstrom J., L. A. (2003, October). Perceived muscular tension, emotional stress, psychological demands and physical load during VDU work. International Archives of Occupational and Envronmental Health, 76(8), 584-590.
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