You’re sick of hearing just how important the “right equipment” is, and hunting down these elusive pieces of ideal furniture has given you a headache. As for your desk at work, that’s not something you are allowed to change on a whim. But then, doctors say there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Here are small, practical changes that can make a big difference.
Sit up and take notice
Harshvardhan Hegde, consultant and head of the department, orthopaedics and spine surgery, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, says: “Sit with your back straight, shoulders back, buttocks touching the back of your chair.” He has suggestions on what to do when you are not using a back support or lumbar roll:
• Sit at the edge of your chair and slouch completely
• Draw yourself up, accentuating the curve of your back
• Hold for a few seconds
• Relax the position slightly
The right angle
Elbows, knees, hips, ankles and wrists should form angles of 90 degrees or slightly less. To refer to printed material as you type, use a document holder. This minimizes head movement and prevents a crick in the neck.
Also See The (hourly) desk stretch (Graphic)
Sit directly facing your monitor. Even a slight angle twists your spine, leaving you with painful neck, back and shoulders.
An eye to your future
Just 2 hours at the keyboard can bring on eye problems, says Ramesh Murthy, consultant, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad. Some 50-90% of computer users suffer from eye strain, headaches, dry eyes and blurred vision. In children, it can even cause myopia.
Make sure your eyes are 45-60cm from the screen and level with the top third of the monitor. If you wear bifocals, though, angle the monitor lower, in line with your lenses.
See that no light, natural or artificial, bounces off the monitor. Get a flat-screen monitor, draw the blinds or simply angle the monitor to avoid glare.
Also, black font on a white ground is kindest to the eyes.
Workout for work
1. Sedentary? Change your position every 45-50 minutes.
2. Stretch gently every hour, on the hour.
3. Every half-hour, take a blink break—20 fast ones. Cup hands over eyes for a minute.
4. “Walks to the photocopy machine, water or coffee dispenser, printer tray or the boss’ desk are simple and adequate ways to prevent repetitive stress injury,” says Rajiv Thukral, consultant (orthopaedics), Max Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi.
Even after office, exercise helps you face desk challenges better. Pradeep Sharma, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Rockland Hospital, Delhi, recommends swimming, yoga and aerobics to ward off spondylosis. If problems persist, though, see a specialist and request a physiotherapist’s intervention.
You can’t have it the ideal 18 inches from your face and still keep it on the lap or use the built-in keypad. It’s a recipe for neck muscle stiffness (fibromyalgia), early cervical spondylosis and back pain. Setting the laptop further back on a table or bunch of books helps, plus a separate USB keyboard and a mouse
Castor coverings and sharp edges on chair seats and legs can tear clothes and even the skin around your ankles. Choose a chair with smooth wheel covers. Can’t change the chair? Soften the edges with layers of transparent cellotape to save your skin and sanity.
First adjust the levers (or use seat cushions) to get arms level with keyboard. Then raise the monitor to eye level if needed. Feet far from grounded now? See right!
To avoid stiffness, back pain and spondylosis, your chair should not only curve to match your spinal contour but also support the whole length of your back, right up to your shoulders. If you can’t get an exact match of curvature or have a low-backed chair, a high-backed straight chair may be better. Adapt with a tall, supple back cushion.
Direct blasts from the air conditioner worsen any aches and pains, and dry out eyes, irritating them. If you cannot move and the housekeeping folks won’t cooperate, deflect the vent or block it with newspaper.
Ideally your forearms should be supported on armrests, elbows at 90 degrees and close to the body (not sticking out to the sides), wrists dorsiflexed (slightly bent back) to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. But if the armrests are pushing your shoulders up, that’s a pain in the neck. Take them right off!
Stack of books
The top of your computer screen should be 3-4 inches above eye level to save your neck and upper back from spasms and spondylosis. That can be a tall order if it’s a fixed height monitor or a laptop. Thankfully, a smart stack of books should solve that.
A chair that doesn’t support your legs can leave you with painful knees and ankles. Adjust it so your feet rest comfortably on the ground. If you cannot adjust the chair or are short (having your feet on the floor puts your arms and head at the wrong level), bring in a footrest. Adjust it so that the ankle bends slightly downward (plantarflexed). A box file will cost you less than Rs50!
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