Most of us spend quite a bit of time in front of the computer, and most of us have the aches to prove it. Stiff shoulders, tight necks, headaches, and carpal tunnel are all signs that we aren’t taking care to sit properly. While sitting many people are not supporting their body. It’s essential to find a neutral position in the chair where you are supported on top of your sit bones. This neutral position should provide support for your torso in and out of active sitting positions. See my “Sitting comfortably “ blog post for tips on finding that position for you.
People don’t think of typing as active. While it doesn’t burning many calories it does require strength and awareness in the arms, shoulders, and back. It’s common to lean too far back in the chair while typing. This allows your back to relax but puts all the work in your arms and shoulders. I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: The body is connected. An inactive spine leaves the rest of your upper body and arms in the lurch. They need to be supported from below. If you are writing a long paper, sit forward keeping a supported but active back.
Picture 1: The Wrong Way
Re-position your spine so that it is upright and supported. Allow your arms to hang down from your shoulders in a relaxed way. [See picture 2]
Picture 2: Sitting with a Supported Back
Observe how you are sitting in the chair and take this time to make the proper adjustments to your work space as well as your body. Is the seat at a supportive height? Do your feet touch the ground comfortably? Etc.
Ideally your knees should be slightly lower than your hips, and you should be supported at your lumbar spine, where it curves inwards towards the front of your body. [See pic 3 for an adjustment for extra lumbar support] The height of your chair should allow your forearms to be angled about 90 degrees from or slightly below the elbows. Avoid angling your forearms up or resting on your wrists! Your wrists should be floating above the keyboard and the mouse, allowing the motions to be shared with your whole arm versus just the wrist. If you have armrests on your chair, they should be gently supporting your forearms but not elevating your shoulders.
Picture 3: Cushion Adjustment for Extra Lumbar Support
Your feet still need to be on the floor once you have adjusted your seat height and position for arm support. If they aren’t touching the floor, don’t lower your seat again. You may need to buy a footstool. It’s important that your feet be grounded to create a supportive pose throughout the body, increasing the depth of your body and balance.
The height of the monitor is another important issue. You should be looking directly ahead or slightly down. Laptops are little demons in this department. While working on a laptop many people strain their neck because they are looking downward for extended periods of time. Another issue with laptops and posture are the narrow keyboards that cause some people to hike up their shoulders while typing. This can squeeze the width of the body. If you spend a lot of time on a laptop, consider a separate keyboard so that your screen can be at a better height for your head and neck position.
The idea behind sitting at a computer properly is to support your body in its best neutral yet active position. Remind yourself to “ reset” or adjust your alignment frequently to find ease. Also, remember to breathe. You can create movement in your stillness with your breath, by allowing the breath to move through your body not just in your chest. These tips can help prevent the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome and keep soreness from ruining your day.