Designing an ergonomic computer workspace

In recent years, chiropractors have seen an increase of younger patients. The cause? Computers.

Computers are so prevalent in today's world, but many are using them in ways that are damaging to their bodies. Here are seven tips for designing an ergonomic computer workspace:

  • Ditch the laptop. While laptops are great for a quick email or working on the go, they shouldn't be your main workstation at home. While using a laptop, your arms are in an improper position and your back and neck are hunched so you can see the screen better. Opt for a desktop whenever possible, or purchase a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor that you can plug your laptop into when at home.
  • Keyboard and mouse. When positioning your keyboard and mouse, you want to put them where it will reduce as much strain as possible on your fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders. Your keyboard and mouse should be placed so that your elbows stay at a 90 degree angle. some desks have trays to accommodate this, but, if not, make sure your chair can be positioned accordingly. 
  • Wrist rests. When typing or using a mouse, your wrists should never be on the desk, they should always be elevated. This helps reduce strain and decreases the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Because your wrists will naturally want to rest on something, get wrist rests or roll up a small towel to give them an elevated surface. If your work has you using a mouse more often than just a few clicks at a time, make sure that it has a wrist rest as well.
  • Monitor. Position your monitor so that it is about an arm's length away, directly in front of you. Then, adjust the height, placing the top of the viewing area about level with your eyes. This will help reduce neck and back strain, so that you don't have to keep them in an awkward position to see the screen. Also, to reduce eye strain, minimize glare that comes off of the screen by turning off or blocking any light that may be reflecting off of the monitor. In addition, anti-glare monitors can be purchased to further decrease reflections.
  • Chair. Your chair is probably the most important part of maintaining good posture while using the computer. The chair back should support your back by keeping it upright and in a relaxed arch position. Add a towel or cushion between the small of your back and the chair if needed. The seat should keep your thighs parallel to the floor and be high enough so that your feet rest firmly on the ground. Knees, hips and elbows should all be resting comfortably at 90 degree angles.
  • Share. If your computer is used by multiple people, make sure that everything is adjustable to accommodate those other users. This is especially important for children, as different chairs or foot rests may be necessary for them to be positioned properly. Help them the first time around and then teach them so that they can do it themselves in the future.
  • Break time. Staying at a computer for long periods of time can be tiring, regardless of the setup. Don't spend any more than three hours at the computer in a single session. Even if it's just for 10 to 20 minutes, get up and do something else. This will go a long way toward preventing problems down the road.

If you've been suffering from chronic lower back aches and are looking for some relief, schedule an appointment with a professional chiropractor right away.