New Computer-Office Ergonomics


The “rules” and recommendations for proper computer setup have changed and improved. There is still too much incorrect and outdated advice out there.

Proper chair setup? 90 degrees at hips, knees, elbows is not correct. So what is proper chair setup? It really doesn’t matter what is correct or proper. Why?? Because proper or perfect posture is NOT good for you… if you sustain that posture for more than an hour. It is not the posture that does the damage… it is the TIME sustaining that posture. That is the weight-bearing tissues are getting inadequate blood supply that feeds those tissues.

No matter how proper and good is your posture, you still are working against gravity. Muscles are sustaining their contraction, tendons holding their position, joints and disc under weight-bearing. This creates tissue pressures that exceed blood pressure feeding those tissues. Lack of oxygen delivery leads to anaerobic metabolism, burning way more glucose and creating way too much metabolic wastes that are trapped in those tissues. This causes pain, inflammation, and degeneration.

The best tactic is POSTURE VARIETY !… change seat height 2″ up or down every 15-30 minutes; change seat tilt; change something-anything to create some variety of posture.

Next critical issue is upper extremity weight-bearing support. Neck and thoracic outlet structures work hard to keep head upright. They work equally hard to suspend and support the arms that hang from the neck and thoracic outlet structures when the arms are held unsupported while hands-fingers enter data. But resting weight of upper extremities on a padded desk surface can greatly reduce posture loads on neck-shoulder girdle-thoracic outlet. Push keyboard few inches back from front edge of desk. Place cushion pad there to support forearms. Better yet, position monitor and keyboard deep in the corner of two adjacent desks that form a right-angle to each other (corner desk). This provides full support surface under each forearm.

Monitor squarely in front, not turned at all one side.
Height such that top edge at eye level, so eyes track from zero to 30 degrees down… UNLESS you wear bifocal eyeglasses!  Discussed later below.

Keyboard pushed in few inches from front edge of desk to provide some surface upon which to rest forearms, padded with gel pad. Best way to do that is place monitor and keyboard deep in corner formed by adjacent desks at right angle to each other (corner setup) which allows maximum surface upon which to rest forearms.  Supporting arms like this reduces neck posture loading and reduces thoracic outlet compression.

Switch between mouse vs trackball every hour, for muscle load variety. Mouse all day risks golfers elbow, but trackball all day risks tennis elbow. Switch between these every hour to load exposure to each muscle group… work task VARIETY is key.

Keyboard legs at back corners of keyboard should be folded out for an hour, then folded in for an hour, to create variety of wrist posture, easing time tendons are under a static load… posture variety is key

Headset headset headset, rather than holding phone tucked between head and shoulder. Terrible neck risk!

Chair adjustment… the key is variety! Perfect posture is bad for you if you sustain the position more than an hour. Simply change height 1-2 inches every hour to change neck-lower back alignment slightly, change tilt or other adjustment as may be available… variety is key.
And do 10-second standing backbend at lower back to unload discs every hour.

BETTER YET, use a VariDesk where you place platform under computer, sit there and work, then an hour later pull level on platform to raise it to work standing for a period. Sitting is very bad, standing is bad, so do both, switching at least hourly. Posture variety is key

Use thick soft pad on pens-pencils to reduce thumb joint loading during prolonged pinch.

BIFOCAL EYEGLASSES vs COMPUTER SETUP… Bifocal, progressives, other split-vision glasses are made for reading a book, but will force your neck into a terrible posture when viewing computer screen (you round over upper back to get eyes closer, then hyperextend head on neck to look thru lower portion of eyeglasses… destroying your neck!).
Switch to single vision longer focus distance eyeglasses during computer use, allowing neck posture to be more upright and able to vary-shift neck posture during work time.


Perform miscro-stretches every hour to relax and return blood supply to structures being loaded by prolonged static posture (chin-tucks, lateral neck stretch, jacobesn’s muscular relaxation, wirst flexor stretch, tennis elbow stretch, standing backbend.. and TAKE A 5-10 MINUTE WALK AT BREAK TIME and especially a longer one after work.

See PDF handout re computer setup… ComputerSetup2

Corner desk setup (best UE support)… bifocals risk (severe FHP risk)… Vari Desk




Here is a comprehensive handout I use when teaching workers our Office Ergo School training session… officeErgoEbook

PTs just starting out in the field of MSD prevention & ergonomics consulting often find Office Ergonomics consulting is a GREAT startup service.  It is easy.  It is rather generic from one workplace to another (everyone is doing the same work!).  And there are many, many workplaces that need you for this.  We have fully-developed OFFICE-COMPUTER ERGO-SCHOOL employee training powerpoint program you can bring to the client workplace to teach them all how to take control of this high-risk work.

Our 2-hr employee training session” Office Ergo School

computer2017 copy


Author: laurendpt

Dr. Physical Therapy, Ortho Specialist, Ergonomics Specialist, founder of IMPACC and the No-Lost-Time MSD Prevention & Ergonomics & Aging Worker programs. Home in Dixfield, ME

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