Have you suffered lately from a bit of back ache? Shoulder pain? How about numbness or pains in your hands or wrists? It’s a bit gloom and doom to start off a blog like this, I know however most of us don’t realise that these issues can largely be due to the way in which we sit at our desks and strain many muscles by overreaching during computer use. So, if you’re a sufferer read on!
The “art of sitting” was created some time ago when the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) formed regulations on working with VDUs (visual display units) and more recently the DSE regulations (Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 as amended 2002). Since the stark increase in the use of VDUs, which also include mobiles phones, tablets, laptops, monitors (basically anything with a display screen), the government has worked hard to ensure we know about the risks of sitting long term. Additionally, how using this equipment whilst positioned incorrectly and in the reverse of how our bodies naturally position themselves, can be damaging to us over time.
Don’t just sit straight!
There’s a bit of a stigma around DSEs with many individuals asking “why do you need to tell me how to sit?” or simply thinking it’s solely about sitting up straight in your chair – NOT TRUE! If you’ve ever had a desk assessment carried out, and a good one, you’ll know that there is far more involved in this art form and that in fact, it’s pretty interesting too!
For example; stand-up for me and pop your arms by your side and R-E-L-A-X. Now raise your forearms to ninety degrees – check out the placement of your hands and arms.
Are you relaxed? Do your arms feel generally comfortable? Now, pretend you’re going to use your mouse or keyboard. You immediately need to turn your arms, hands and wrists to face the floor, correct?
Now consciously try to feel the difference, particularly in your lower arms as to how this feels with your muscles and any tension change. Switch between both positions – can you feel it?! It’s not natural or neutral for our bodies to be in this position, yet this is what we do more or less day-in day-out for around 8 hours a day at our desk.
This strain and various others including static loading on our muscles (where we are engaging a muscle but not moving it), are the cause of many injuries and long-term problems. Things like upper limb disorders, RSI (repetitive strain injury) and musculoskeletal problems will occur when placement of our arms, feet, hands and lumbar aren’t where they naturally ought to be.
Are you convinced now?
There are numerous other ways in which we sit and work that are not natural, for example the height in which you sit at your desk. Most task chairs will have (and if they don’t, should have by law) a gas lift built in meaning you can lower or higher your chair to suit your natural position and placement of your arms and shoulders at your desk.
This again is something you can test very easily, at the start of each day and adjust your height accordingly, making sure that your shoulders are relaxed. If you change your shoe heel height it will also affect the height in which you will need to sit! Check it out now at your desk and see whether your shoulders feel relaxed when typing or up at your ears… if they aren’t, adjust your chair until they are at this natural drop. This change alone can help with upper-back, shoulder and neck pain!
So – if you’re one of the cynics who thinks DSE is about sitting up straight, think again. And check out your set up! There’s some really easy-to-follow guides here provided by the HSE including a self-assessment form.
For more information about our DSE training and assessment services please visit our website: www.bw-oc.com.