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Are you sitting comfortably?

Did you know that if you sit at a desk during day, it can be just as harmful as heavy labour if your workstation is not set up correctly? Chartered physiotherapist Diana Wilson of Physio on the River in Barnes shares her tips to help you do this.

The majority of people these days are sedentary workers. You may be surprised to hear that sitting all day can be just as harmful as heavy labour. Very few jobs these days don’t include sitting at a desk and using a computer for at least some of the time.

Getting your workstation set up correctly doesn’t have to be expensive, although we would recommend spending a reasonable amount on your office chair as this is an essential piece of equipment to do your job properly and stay healthy.

The aim is to put your spine in the most ‘neutral’ position where the joints, ligaments and muscles are held in the position of least strain and effort.

Chair height: Place your arms by your side with your elbows bent at a right angle. The middle row of your keyboard should be just below the level of your fingertips. Adjust your chair accordingly. If the chair is too low it will cause you to hunch your shoulders to raise your hands over the keyboard, leading to tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. You may want to get a keyboard shelf which pulls out from under the surface of the desk. If you have to raise the chair up to a level where you can’t place your feet on the floor then you will need a footstool (or a box) to support your feet.

When sitting on your chair your feet flat should be flat on the floor or footstool. The angle at your knees and hips should be at 90° or more – but your knees should never be higher than your hips. The seat should be deep enough to support ¾ of the length of your thighs, but not so deep that your back lacks support. The backrest should be slightly curved and adjusted to support the hollow in your spine. If your chair lacks this support try a rolled towel placed in the small of your back. A slight forward tilt to the chair seat can help to maintain the curve in the lower back. Pull your chair in close to the desk to encourage good upright posture.

Have you studied your computer terminal recently? The top ⅓ of the screen should be level with your eyes.

The screen should be at right angles to your face and straight ahead of you.

If you wear bifocals lower the monitor to a comfortable reading height.

Finally, remember that the chair cannot give you good posture – you still have to work at becoming aware of your posture. Sit yourself right back in the chair, draw yourself up tall, ‘wear’ your head over your shoulders and not in front of your shoulders and let the chair support you.

If you start to develop symptoms – commonly aches and pains in the neck, upper back, lower back and arms or funny sensations in the arms or legs – then give Physio on the River a call on 020 8876 5690 and we can help you resolve them.

This article has been provided by Physio on the River recommended local physiotherapists in Barnes and Richmond upon Thames who provide ergonomics advice and solutions for companies, small businesses and self-employed home workers across Richmond borough.