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Do you ever experience neck pain, lower back stiffness, or numbness in your arms after sitting your office desk all day? If so, you are not alone. In fact OSHA, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, reported that work related musculoskeletal injuries of the neck, upper extremity and low back are one of the leading causes of lost productivity and missed work days (Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace, 2011).

Some of the risk factors of work related injuries include lifting heavy items, bending, pushing and pulling heavy loads, reaching overhead, working in awkward body postures, and performing the same or similar tasks repeatedly. While increased exposure to these risk factors can increase your chances of injuries at work, the good news is that many work related musculoskeletal injuries can be prevented.

Ergonomics is the scientific study of people at work. The primary goal of ergonomic interventions are to reduce stress on an employee's body in order to prevent injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, repetitive tasks, and poor posture. Such a goal is often accomplished by designing tasks, work areas, computer displays, and lighting to best fit an employee´s physical capabilities, limitations, and individual needs. Below are some ergonomic suggestions and tips for helping to reduce muscle stress and help prevent musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace.

1. Center your body in front of your computer monitor and keyboard, or other workstation. Sit up in a comfortable and relaxed position.

2. When typing, try to keep your wrists in a straight and natural position. Do not type with your wrists flexed up, bent down, or to either side.

3. Keep key or commonly used objects such as your telephone, stapler, or writing utensils close to your body to prevent excessive stretching.

4. Adjust the height of your desk chair so that your feet can rest comfortably on the floor and your knees are about level with your hips.

5. Place the computer monitor directly in front of you on your desk, about an arm's length away (typically 18 to 28 inches) away.

6. The top of your computer screen should be slightly below eye level.

7. If your job requires you to frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, consider using a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck.

8. Refocus on distant objects intermittently when working to help rest your eyes.

9. Alternate work tasks to make changes in your posture and position in order to avoid the same movements for prolonged periods of time.

10. Take rest breaks in order to change postures and stretch. If possible, take a one or two-minute break every 15 to 20 minutes, or a five-minute break every hour.

(image by UCDAVIS: Occupational Health Services)

You can also check out these resources for additional information:

1. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Provides additional ergonomic suggestions for computer workstations

2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Offers Ergonomic Interventions by Industry

Works Cited

Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace (2011). United States Department of Labor

Office Ergonomics. Retrieved at

What is Good Posture? UCDavis: Occupational Health Services retrieved at

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