How to Keep Good Posture When In Front of a Computer

“We spend a large portion of our lives sitting, especially during the computer age, so it’s important to learn to sit tall. One of the most common mistakes we make is that when we move into a sitting position, we tend to aim for the center of the chair. The proper method is to sit deep in your chair.”

- Dr. Marvin Arnsdorff

Today we are spending more time at computers, an activity through which people’s bad posture can affect their overall health.

Computer PosturePosture ranks at the top of the list when talking about good health. It is as important as eating right, exercising, getting a good night’s sleep and avoiding harmful substances. Unnatural alignment of the body can cause head, shoulder, neck and back pain, and compromise neurological, digestive, respiratory and cardiovascular functioning.

Unquestionably, students and adults alike spend more time at computers today than 20 years ago. So here are nine tips designed to help people’s posture when they’re at the computer at home, school or work:

1. Support your back.

Does the chair you are sitting on have enough lumbar support? The backrest should fit into the natural curve of your lower back, filling in the space between your back and the back of the chair. This helps avoid excess pressure on the spine and makes it easier to maintain good sitting posture.

Adequate lumbar support also helps prevent muscle fatigue, which causes many people to lean their heads and upper backs too far forward or to slouch downward. With good lower back support, spinal muscles are relaxed and the spine is able to maintain its neutral position.

2. Comfortable leg postures.

To promote comfortable leg postures, consider clearing away items from your legs to allow comfortable leg positions and movement. Feet should be flat on the floor or you may use a footrest if your feet do not rest comfortably.

3. Minimize reaching.

Position work station components to minimize reaching and twisting. Keep frequently accessed objects as close as possible to body centre.

4. Comfortable shoulder and arm postures.

Place your keyboard and mouse or trackball at the same height; these should be at about elbow level. Your upper arms should fall relaxed at your sides.

Also when typing, center your keyboard in front of you with your mouse or trackball located close to it.

5. Wrist and finger postures.

Keep your wrists straight while typing and while using a mouse or trackball. Avoid bending your wrists up, down, or to the sides. Use the keyboard legs if they help you maintain a comfortable and straight wrist position. Type with your hands and wrists floating above the keyboard, so that you can use your whole arm to reach for distant keys instead of stretching your fingers.

Make sure you keep your fingers relaxed while typing and using a mouse. Use a soft touch on the keyboard instead of pounding keys with unnecessary force.

Also grasp the mouse gently and avoid holding a pen or anything else in your hands while you type or use the mouse. You should relax your fingers and hands between bursts of typing or mousing using a flat, straight wrist posture.

When moving your mouse, you may be more comfortable if you use your arm, not just your wrist. Choose a mouse that fits the size of your hand comfortably and is as flat as possible to minimize wrist strain.

6. Minimize neck bending and twisting.

Center your monitor in front of you. Consider placing your documents directly in front of you and the monitor slightly to the side, if you refer to your documents more frequently than your monitor.

Sit comfortably in the chair. Close both eyes and relax. Then, slowly reopen them. Where the gaze initially focuses should be when the eyes open is the place to put the center of the computer screen. The screen can be raised using books or a stand if needed.

7. Minimize eyestrain.

Place your monitor at a distance of about arm’s length when seated comfortably in front of the monitor. Also avoid glare. Place your monitor away from light sources that produce glare, or use window blinds to control light levels. Don’t forget to adjust your monitor brightness, contrast, and font size to levels that are comfortable for you.

Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by forcing them to focus on something other than on your screen. Try the following exercise: Hold a finger a few inches in front of your face; focus on the finger as you slowly move it away; focus on something far in the distance and then back to the finger; slowly bring the finger back toward your face. Next, shift your focus to something farther than eight feet away and hold your eyes there for a few seconds. Repeat this exercise three times, several times a day.

8. Take short breaks.

Taking breaks can help your body recover from any activity. The length and frequency of breaks that are right for you depend on the type of work you are doing. Stopping the activity and relaxing is one way to take a break, but there are other ways, also. For example, just changing tasks – perhaps from sitting while typing to standing while talking on the phone can help some muscles relax while others remain productive.

9. Periodically look up at the ceiling to give your posture muscles a break.

So, improve your sitting posture and remember, a healthy lifestyle can help you perform and enjoy your everyday activities, including the time spent at your computer. Learning more about working comfortably and productively, as well as your overall health, are important ways to help you enjoy your computing experience.

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43 Comments

  • Computer User says:

    Good advice, something I definitely need to follow. Having much trouble with eyes, neck, shoulder, back and sometimes wrist. I can see now why much of this is happening – and avoidable.

  • FlorentG says:

    Mouse tip : make sure it is not too hard to click. I had a mouse that eventually got broken. Clicking became harder, yes harder O_o Actually everytime I clicked, it had to squeeze the cable before clicking.

    Hard-clicking dozen of time a day putted hard pressure one my carpal nerve, and I started to feel carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms…

    As soon as I change my mouse, I felt no more pain :)

  • Ririan says:

    Today, roughly 3-5% of the general U.S. population suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome. Since repetition of hand use is one factor causing carpal tunnel syndrome, the increase of computer use may be involved in this statistic.

    And the best prevention for individuals who may be at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome (data entry clerks, word processors, or computer programmers), is correct use of the keyboard and mouse.

    So, choosing a good mouse is very important.

  • Ivan Minic says:

    Nice tips…
    Hard to follow though…
    People do what they are used to.. that can’t be changed easily..

  • no-mouse says:

    @ririan: maybe try not to use mouse if possible?

  • Mike says:

    Good post, my only discrepancy/question is in regards to the monitor in that drawing. I have always read that the monitor should be straight ahead of the user, instead of forcing the user to look down at it. True or no?

  • Hal S says:

    You are so right Ivan.. as they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!”

    My chiropractor goes nuts when his patients mention they use a laptop computer.. the vast majority of people just sit them on a desk or their lap, and stare down at the screen.

    This action compresses the front of the intervertebral discs that separate the vertebrae bones in your neck. Done for long preiods, this unnatural forward-curve can wear them down, and can also put strain on the ligaments that hold your neck upright, causing neck pain.

    The natural curve of your neck is convex towards the front, concave at the back. Screens that are too low position your neck in exactly the wrong curve. The advice to take a break and stare at the ceiling is good, as it stretches your neck in its natural curve, not the bad one.

    No I’m not a chiropractor, just someone with severe neck damage who wishes he’d been more careful, and now knows all the stuff he wishes he knew 20 years ago.

    Despite my being virtually immobile with neck agony for 6 weeks and my raising all my monitors at work to a comfortable eye level (my neck is so sensitive now it tells me when I look downwards), my colleagues at work think I am some kind of nut or “special case” invalid… that my advice is irrelevant to them as they are “healthy”.. and they politely smile and go back to staring downwards.

    I shake my head (carefully) Ivan, knowing they will only appreciate my good advice when their necks go “bing” – how I wish I’d listened to the good advice of a “crazy” person years ago!

  • Ririan, unless you can site a source, I think the 3-5% for carpal tunnel is probably high. I might be able to believe that 3-5% suffer from tendonitis, but carpal tunnel is actual permanent nerve damage and is much less common than tendonitis. I used to think I had carpal tunnel, but a doctor ran tests where he stuck pins in my fingers and wrist and then ran electrical pulses through them.

    No nerve damage was found, but I still felt pain. That meant tendonitis. And, as it turns out I was able to cure my problems by using ice gloves consistently for 3 months along with a new keyboard.

    I have the whole experience documented at:
    http://g42.org/tiki/tiki-index.php?page=CuringTendonitis

  • vipul gupta says:

    hi,
    Thanks a lof for your healthy Tips.
    i found your article very usefull.

    Thanks
    vipul gupta

  • Ririan says:

    @HappyEngineer I have that number from an article written by Dr. David Rempel, M.D., Chief Medical Advisor, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

    @Mike You’re right, the monitor should be straight ahead of the user. The picture is bad :)

    @no-mouse I can’t live without my mouse :) I think it will be better if I just learn how to use it properly, instead of not using it at all.

    Thank you for your comments guys.

  • Phil says:

    A good set of tips. One more to add might be about getting proper diagnosis, advice and treatment of any wrist, neck or back injuries from a physiotherapist or chiropractor. This might require a little more time and money but it gives you the best chance of recovering fully and quickly.

  • Yoga Guy says:

    I’ve tried something a little different — sitting on a platform in traditional yoga sitting postures (like siddhasana). I’ve found it has helped me to be more alert throughout the day and keep the spine straight. While it can be a bit uncomfortable at first, sitting that way for an hour or two everyday quickly strengthens the back and core muscles.

    Also, you will contain more of your energy with a cross legged posture then if you have your legs flat on the floor. Certain postures like siddhasana are quite stable once you get into them and naturally support good posture. They have other benefits like lowering blood pressure as well, so at least you will be relaxed when the daily work stress comes up :)

    M @ YogaWisdom.net

  • Adrian says:

    As a massage therapist and instructor, I have always taught the importance of posture in reducing bodily pain. A few weeks ago I posted my own blog on the issue here: http://adrianherritt.com/?p=17

  • Steve Hards says:

    I’m amazed no one has mentioned the effect of arm rests! They not only encourage people to slouch, but cause hand, arm, shoulder and neck pain as people raise their arms off them to type.

  • Noumenon says:

    If you go in Control Panel, Mouse, you can switch your mouse to left-handed. That’ll take some strain off your mousing hand. I switch back and forth every couple months.

    At home, I lie down in front of my computer instead.

  • Chalupa says:

    At the office I work at, we are always bugging one of the guys there that sits in a very bad position, with his feet on the chair. :( I catch myself doing that myself, especially if I’m not wearing shoes at home. Bad habbits lead to poor posture. Using a posture corrector would help train your body to sit in better positions. http://www.avltrading.com/product2.php

    We used to have really crappy office chairs until I complained enough times that we got some nicer, ergonomic ones with adjustable arm rests and 3 way adjustable seating. I can’t find it on the Staples website right now :(.

  • Donal says:

    While correct work station set-up is an important piece of the puzzle, it’s important to understand that the key is the body that you take to the work station!

    Posture does not require, learning (at least not as we commonly know it) or practice. Posture is just the result of feeding your body the movement and stimulus your work station and modern lifestyle have starved it of.

    More movement NOT less is the answer. Twisting and turning is what your body is designed to do – both ways!

    Try the Posture Imbalance Test and see what you discover:

    http://healthtrek.blogspot.com/2007/01/simple-posture-imbalance-test.html

    Remember – THE BODY WORKS AS A UNIT

  • bla bla says:

    your body’s not meant to stay in one position for long periods. there is no ONE ergonomic position.

    it’s simple: CHANGE your posture every so often. eg if you have footrest, turn it around (try it!), if your keyboard is raised, lower it. buy a new chair. raise your screen using one phonebook. add more phonebooks. move your computer to the other corner of the cubicle, etc.

    after a while, change it again.

    also, try printing to a different printer instead of the nearest one and go for a walk.

  • Joy says:

    These are very helpful tips…thank you for sharing…I will practice them always..^^

  • Chloe says:

    For eyes, buy a pair of reading glasses 1.0 – 2.0 from CVS even if you don’t need them. Then wear them in front of the screen and it will make the screen look further away so you don’t have to force your eyes to focus or look away every 10 minutes as recommended. If you live in a cube, there may be no where to look anyways. It’s like looking into the horizon, and there is no eye strain.

    For tendinitis, use the mouse in your left hand for a few weeks. That cures any tingling I get.

  • subcorpus says:

    god … i needed that …
    thanks … appreciated …

  • The research using a sitting MRI scanner that led to lots of “slouching is good for you” headlines was pretty badly misrepresented in the press in my view. The researchers made very clear that the back should still be well supported, which to me isn’t a slouch or slump, and also pointed out that they studied sitting at 90 degrees and 135 degrees. The latter is halfway to lying down, which you’d expect puts much less strain on your back, although I’m not sure trying to work in that position is going to do your neck, arms and shoulders much good! Also, the implication of all the media articles was that standard advice was to sit bolt upright, whereas in fact people have been saying have a slight back lean for years.

    From my point of view, as the inventor of PostureMinder, the key finding was that it confirmed leaning forwards was bad for your back.

    PostureMinder is award-winning intelligent posture reminder software that uses a webcam to continually check your posture. If you sit leaning forwards (or, yes, slouch with your back unsupported!) for an extended period, on-screen reminders encourage you to change how you’re sitting. Note the “extended period” part – it’s not like these USB gizmos that irritate you by flashing lights or making noise whenever you lean forwards, as that discourages movement. PostureMinder only reminds you when you consistently sit badly for a while. In effect, it acts as your posture conscience.

    I’m not coming on here claiming it’s some sort of miracle cure, because there’s no such thing. PostureMinder is a simple software tool that you can use to help yourself avoid sitting in poor postures for long periods at a time, and which also encourages healthy working habits such as regular breaks. If you’d like to try it, please visit my website at http://www.PostureMinder.co.uk

    Thanks
    Phil

  • Hi there,

    Great tips with helpful info about computer workstation ergonomics…

    Have you heard about.. Bback saver leather executive chairs are specially designed for office use. These ergonomic chairs are designed by focusing more on four principles they are the zero-gravity stress free position, dynamic adjustability, digital technology and wonder foam.

  • Hi there…

    Helpful and informative post about office workstation ergonomics…

    Well have to heard about this back saver leather executive chairs are specially designed for office use. These ergonomic chairs are designed by focusing more on four principles they are the zero-gravity stress free position, dynamic adjustability, digital technology and wonder foam.

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  • I’d prefer reading in my native language, because my knowledge of your languange is no so well.

  • Mike W says:

    in reference to the difficulty in clicking, some laptops have a mouse effect that allows you to tap twice when you want to double click…this saves the whole slamming the button dilemma. also having your computer positioned below eye level (you’re personal judgment as to how much) is much easier on the eyes than having to look up at a screen. looking forward, try raising your eyes to look at your hair, then look at the ground. much more comfortable to look down. that’s all i know.

  • jet o says:

    i love these tips! they are so useful, and they have really helped me relax more when i’m infront of the computer

  • jackie says:

    true that

  • ajay says:

    sit in front of computer and get blind.

  • Japheth Amayo says:

    Very inspiring and rather fare enough over putting into consideration.

  • Excellent tips for all who work on computers especially for IT professionals. thank you…

  • niki says:

    i’m working on it…..

  • Tison says:

    So far the best postural compilation I have found, we had all of the items except the arms falling at the sides – Due to not using a keyboard tray. Ordering one now…

    Thanks for the advice,
    T

  • april ann magsayo says:

    heheh yhuh right.. so usefulll.. i really love the definition about in good position when you are in front of the computer..

  • lance says:

    i agree with ur mom

  • Nirvana says:

    this helped me so much with my engineering diploma.. Thankyou so much

  • Sally says:

    This is a really simple reminder of the benefits of good posture. With so many of us becoming less and less active, it’s great to see this topic is getting some good exposure.

  • chugyfahad says:

    what do u do if there are armrests and theyre too big for u (keyboard counts) (small hands) (lol)

  • Anthony says:

    Thanks for all the informative advice, posture has a profound affect on our health and well-being I must make sure I must practice and stick to what you are saying

  • Nordia Brown says:

    Thanks very much i am so great full for all this information

  • Agbemafo Fred says:

    thanks for such a useful tips

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