Office Makeover Could Cure Pains

You likely spend hours each day at your desk or in front of a computer at home. All that time could be hurting you.

It's all about ergonomics. What's right in one person's work space won't work in another person's who may be taller or shorter.

Kristy Stafford is an example. She spends a lot of time at work, on the computer. When she does, she reaches up to the keyboard and leans in at times to see the monitor.

Enter Dr. Dale Garrett of Stormont-Vail WorkCare to make her life easier. Target number one is her chair. Dr. Garrett lowers it so her knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. For proper position in the seat, he says you want a fist-width between your legs and the chair, so your calves aren't touching the chair.

With your legs set, your arms are next. Dr. Garrett says your keyboard should be positioned so your arms are at a 90-degree angle at the elbow when you type and your wrists are flat.

Don't forget your mouse. Dr. Garrett says it should be at the same height as your keyboard. For right-handers, he suggests switching the mouse and phone to your left, to prevent overusing your right hand. He admits it may feel unusual at first, but once you adjust, you may actually find you operate more quickly.

Now your monitor. Dr. Garrett says a good trick is to hold out your arm to check that it's an arm's-length, or 18-to-30 inches, away. He says most people have it set too far back on their desks. For height, he says your nose should be in the middle of the screen.

To cut down on glare to save eyestrain, Dr. Garrett says to position your monitor at a 90-degree to any window. Also, dim the lights if you need to.

Don't forget to watch your back! If you don't have a special chair or pillow, a t-shirt or towel can provide support. Dr. Garrett says lumbar support can decrease force on the spine 25 percent. He says when you don't have it and hunch over, it can cause strain on your neck and back.

Finally, remember to keep moving, not stay rigid, and every few minutes look away from the screen and focus on something about twenty feet away.

Dr. Garrett also suggests stretching exercises throughout the day, especially for your arms and hands. He says you can expect it to take two to six weeks to get used to such changes.

Stormont-Vail WorkCare does ergonomic workplace evaluations. Find out more about the service by calling 270-8605.

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For more information on ergonomics:

Stormont-Vail HealthCare (www.stormontvail.org)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/OD/OHS/ERGONOMICS/COMPERGO.HTM)


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