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Office Ergonomics

Office Ergonomics: Do you have the proper work station set up?

Office work requires a delicate balance of key elements including keyboarding, answering the telephone and using the mouse.  Repeating these tasks each day places a lot strain on our muscles and joints.  Improper design and set-up of office space can compound these daily stresses and lead to repetitive strain injuries.

Repetitive strain injuries have skyrocketed in the last two decades due to the increasing reliance on workplace technology. Health Canada has estimated that musculoskeletal disorders, including back pain, cost society $16.4 billion in combined direct (treatment and rehabilitation) and in direct (lost productivity) costs.

Common repetitive strain injuries found in office workers are back and neck pain/stiffness, carpal tunnel syndrome, “tennis elbow” (outer elbow pain), shoulder tightness and headaches.

Enhancing your set-up often requires only a few simple changes that will help make your job easier, safer, more efficient and less painful.


 Here are some tips to help create a better ergonomic set up at your office:

Office Ergonomics Diagram

The Keyboard: Position it above your lap. Ensure that you can type with your arms relaxed, close to your body with elbows bent at 90 degrees and wrists level.

The Computer Monitor: Position it directly in front of you.  Keep it free of dirt and smudges, in order to reduce glare.  The top of the monitor should be at eye level of just below.

Allow the muscles in your eyes to relax by taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes, during which you look at an object that is located at least 20 feet away from you.

The Mouse: Some workers have a vice-like grip on the mouse. Try using a light grip to avoid strain. When moving the mouse, use your elbow and forearm to guide it instead of your wrist.

The Telephone: Use your hand to support the telephone against your ear, and alternate regularly instead of cradling the phone between the ear and shoulder. Consider using a headset or speaker to limit the strain on your neck and arms.

The Chair:  Sit upright and all the way back. You can even roll up a towel and place it against the arch of your back for lumbar spine support. Your chair’s height should be adjusted to a level at which your knees are bent at a 90-100 degree angle, with your feet touching the floor.

Mini Breaks: Take breaks from sitting at least every 30 minutes.  Stand up and stretch or walk around for only about a minute.  Doing this will help reduce the strain and tension placed on your muscles from sitting.

Laptops:  When using a laptop for long periods of time, consider using an external monitor or an external keyboard and mouse to improve your work set up.  Using an external monitor that is attached to your laptop will allow you to use your laptop as a keyboard while having a monitor that is set up at an appropriate height.  If using an external mouse and keyboard attached to your laptop, you can prop your laptop up on some books or a monitor stand to achieve the proper monitor height.  The external keyboard and mouse with allow you to maintain optimal positioning of your hands, arms and wrists.

Spending some time to make simple ergonomic changes to your work environment can improve your comfort and productivity.

If you experience any pain or symptoms that may be related to your work set up, call to the office to book a free consultation with Dr. Kevin Cheung to see if the services he provides can help you.