Health Report: Poorly adjusted office furniture can be bad for muscular health

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 4:12 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With more people working from home during the pandemic, the importance of properly adjusted office furniture is more important than ever.

“As a chiropractor I’ve definitely seen an increase in ergonomic stress with my patient base, whether it’s teachers or psychologists, people working from home. The body doesn’t like unfamiliar. They’re used to their work site, and their work site is probably more ergonomically efficient - so I’ve seen definitely an increase in patients needing care because of the home situation,” said Dr. Johnathan Victorino of Discover Chiropractic Inc.

Ergonomic stress caused by prolonged sitting can be exacerbated by a suboptimal workspace configuration, as Victorino explained: “When you’re looking at a computer screen people tend to lean forward, they tend to shift their eyes to where they can see better - and the stress on the head and the neck and the upper back, shoulders... you see a lot of that. So with that comes neck pain, lotta headaches, upper back pain, where these muscles at the base of your neck are. Then you’re sitting on your butt, and they say sitting is trauma at zero miles an hour, sitting is the new smoking. So prolonged sitting is just not good for the low back, for the disks, for the hips... prolonged sitting is just not good. No matter what chair you’re sitting in, it’s not healthy.”

The placement of monitors, computer mice, and chairs can be optimized to minimize stress. Simple and easy steps can be taken from home to make a day in front of a computer easier on the body in the long run.

“Make sure that monitor is high enough that you’re not stooping down to look into it. That’s important. It doesn’t have to be pretty. You can put your monitor on a handful of books and just raise your monitor up so your head and your body is erect. Your ear should be over your shoulder,” said Victorino.

The placement and positioning of the computer’s mouse can similarly put unnecessary stress on the body if extending an arm is necessary to use it. Victorino told us, “That mouse can be brought back to the edge of the desk so your elbows are actually at your side. You’re not reaching out for that thing all the time. If your elbow is at your side, your arm is in a position of relaxation vs. if it’s forward on the desk and you’re always reaching for that, these smaller muscles in the back of your shoulder when you’re reaching for that mouse, they’re pulled tight - and when you pull a muscle tight you reduce it’s blood flow. If you’re sitting there all day long reducing the blood flow in those small muscles, they’re gonna get acidic and inflamed - and those little rotator cuffs once they get inflamed, they can be inflamed for a prolonged period of time.”

As important as good ergonomics and proper posture are, they are no substitute for exercise and activity. The best tactic for minimizing the stresses of prolonged sitting is to stand up.

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