Tips for your Desk Ergonomics

Did you know that Australians sit around 10 hours a day?

Sitting for long periods of time not only increases your risk of health conditions such as diabetes and cancer but also can lead to a long list of musculoskeletal pains and injuries. There is a reason “Desk Disease” is now a commonly used term!

So how does sitting at a desk all day cause you pain?

Let’s talk about desk ergonomics. Sitting, standing, or being in any position for an extended amount of time is going to cause muscular imbalances (where some muscles are tightening up, and some are lengthening and hence becoming weak). When your muscles aren’t working as optimally as they can be our body works hard, and tries to compensate so you are still able to undertake your usual daily actions and activities. This often leads to other muscles becoming more dominant and becoming tight themselves.

Let me give you an example: it’s snow season again, and you decide to go to Mount Buller for the weekend. You wake up the next morning after a full day skiing, and your legs are very tired and achy and you may be hobbling around due to the pain or tightness. This is an example of how being in a prolonged position (in this case having your legs bent in the ski boots, stabilizing yourself as you’re skiing) can cause muscle tightness and hence, imbalance. If you were to ski four hours a day for months and months, the general pain might ease as your body becomes accustomed to the exercise, but this doesn’t mean the underlying muscular imbalance is gone. This same principle can apply to your desk-related posture. Your desk ergonomics is so important.

Many people who work at a desk have experienced some kind of pain in their career. Some of the common things you may experience from working at your desk are:
– Neck and back pain
– Headaches
– Wrist and elbow pain
– Pelvis and hip pain
– Knee pain

What can you do?

It may be unavoidable for you to sit at a desk all day, and in this circumstance, it is very important to ensure your deck is set up as optimally as possible. Most workplaces offer ergonomic setups for their staff, so this is what I would recommend you enquire about.

There are also some simple adjustments you can make to your desk which will help to decrease pain and improve your posture. Get a co-worker to take a photo of you working at your desk and let’s assess your set up next time you come in to see us!

1. Your eyes should be level with the top third of the screen. Does your desktop computer have an adjustable screen? If you’re unable to do this (or you’re using a laptop) put 2-4 thick books or bundles of A4 paper underneath your computer screen until it is up to the right height.
2. Your head and shoulders should be upright, not hunched over towards the screen. Try to remember to keep your shoulders down and relaxed
3. Your elbows should be in approximately 90-120 degrees flexion and resting on the top of your bench easily
4. Your upper and lower back should be fully supported by the curves in your chair. If you sit in a firm chair that doesn’t have spinal support, you can put a rolled-up towel in between your lower back and the chair. (Tip: the rolled-up towel doesn’t have to be big, a hand towel may be enough to give your lower back the support it needs).
5. Your legs should be parallel and uncrossed, and your knees should be at 90-110 degrees flexion to the ground. Your feet should be firmly planted on the ground or resting on a footrest.


These simple yet effective changes can have a huge impact on how your body feels.

Need help?

Are you looking for support for your desk ergonomics and any aches or pains from your desk? Book an appointment with one of our osteopaths here at Total Balance. In your consult, you can address any of your symptoms with some hands-on treatment. It would also be beneficial for you to bring in photos of you at your desk, of your chair, and of your desk set up and we can give you advice on some adjustments you can make, which should reduce your risk of these pains reoccurring.

Dr. Sarah Duggan (osteopath at Total Balance Healthcare)




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