Make the right moves to minimise injuries

GET COMFY: Here's the right posture when sitting at your workstation. Sit up straight, back supported, with your knees bent 90 deg. Keep your forearms level or tilted up slightly. The top of the computer screen should be just below eye level.


    Sep 11, 2014

    Make the right moves to minimise injuries

    IN TODAY'S world, wherever we turn, we see hunched shoulders, poking chins, bent wrists and constantly tapping fingers. Around 20 years ago, computers were used mainly in offices, but now people are constantly using - or perhaps abusing - laptops, smartphones and tablets at work, at home, on the MRT, in coffee shops and restaurants.

    People are hunching and slouching to use their gadgets in confined spaces. Too much of this is bound to take a physical toll. As people twist their bodies to use electronic devices in all possible places, they may unknowingly be risking injury.

    Through improper positioning, people are at greater risk of eye strain, tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, among other ailments. Repeated movements can lead to an overuse of muscles and tendons, making them inflamed and causing pain in the hands, shoulders, neck and back.

    By changing our work environment and workstation design, as well as being aware of good work posture and practices, we can prevent such injuries at work.

    Ergonomics is regarded as the science of designing a workplace to match our physical and psychological needs, limitations and capabilities.

    "Office ergonomics" is using these principles in an office setting. The goal of office ergonomics is to set up your office workspace so that it fits you and the job you are doing.

    An ergonomically set-up workstation will:

    Reduce headaches and eye strain

    Reduce neck and back pain

    Prevent bursitis, or tendon problems linked to repetitive tasks

    A comfortable workspace can help you feel more comfortable at work. Sitting at a desk for hours at a time does not have to lead to a career of neck and back pain, or sore wrists and fingers.

    Proper office ergonomics - including correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing and good desk posture - can help you stay comfortable at work.

    Ready to give your workspace a makeover? Use this guide to help transform your workstation into an ergonomic one.


    a. Height of workspace:

    Should be between 65cm and 75cm, depending on your height.

    b. Position of monitor:

    The best position is directly in front of you, if your job consists mainly of computer work.

    c. Desk surface:

    Should not be reflective and should be large enough to accommodate all the equipment needed, such as monitor, keyboard and mouse.

    d. Your workstation:

    Should be organised to minimise being in an awkward posture or overreaching. Frequently used items should be kept within the primary zone and less frequently used items in the secondary zone.

    2. CHAIR

    While sitting, your feet should comfortably reach the floor and your knees should be in line with your hips.

    If your chair doesn't support your lower back, place a cushion between the curve of your back and the back of the chair.


    Consider keeping the mouse within close reach, and keep your wrist in a neutral and comfortable position.


    When you are typing, keep your wrists straight - not bent up, down or to either side.

    5. HEADSET

    If you talk frequently on the phone and take notes at the same time, consider using a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and shoulder.


    If your feet don't reach the floor comfortably, you can use a footrest/small stool to ensure maximum comfort.

    7. POSTURE

    Sit directly in front of your monitor and keyboard. Sit up straight, back supported, with your knees bent 90 deg. Keep your forearms level or tilted up slightly.


    Generally, the desk should be at least 48cm deep, 76cm wide and, depending on your height, up to 86cm high. Ensure there is sufficient space for your legs under the desk - do not use this area for storage.


    The monitor should be directly in front of you, about an arm's length away. The top of the screen should be slightly below eye level. Where possible, try to minimise glare from sunlight/overhead lighting. The proper viewing distance is approximately an arm's length from the screen. The line of sight should be approximately at a right angle to the screen.

    Be aware of these factors and try to apply them as much as possible, even when you are not at your primary workstation.

    Remember, the simplest and most well-worn piece of advice is to take a break. Leaving your workstation gives your muscles and your mind the rest they deserve.

    The writer is a senior physiotherapist with Clinical Services, Collaborative Care, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.