Tips for Maintaining Proper Posture at Your Desk

January 7, 2022
By Justin Field, M.D.
Dr. Field is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon. Dr. Field has specialized training in minimally invasive spine surgery and motion sparing technologies, such as cervical and lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement, as well as non-fusion stabilization. In addition, he has extensive training in adult deformity correction and treatment.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 01-Tips-for-Maintaining-Proper-Posture-at-Your-Desk-5d925ea7-1024x512.jpg

While we may not think of it, posture in the workplace is essential and plays a significant role in our daily health and overall well-being. Poor posture and ineffective workplace ergonomics are leading causes of back pain, muscle stiffness, eye strain, and other complications. Without proper posture and an ergonomic workplace, you may lose motivation and experience adverse health effects.

Fortunately, there are numerous tips to consider that can help you improve your posture in the workplace and create a workstation ideal for your height and unique needs. Creating an efficient and comfortable workstation can help you feel more productive and comfortable, allowing you to focus on your responsibilities without distraction.

How Important Is Desk Ergonomics?

Desk ergonomics play an essential role in the daily lives of office workers. Desk ergonomics is the study of customizing a user’s workplace setting to fit their physical needs. Ergonomics can improve the health and well-being of employees while promoting productivity and efficiency. Unfortunately, workers may ignore desk ergonomics.

Without proper posture, there are numerous problems you may experience, including:

  • Tech neck

    Tech neck, which is often called text neck, is neck pain caused by continual injury and strain to the tissues and muscles of the neck. As we spend much of our time on phones and computer screens, many people may experience neck discomfort or pain. Some of the main symptoms of tech neck include aching discomfort in the upper back, lower neck and shoulders. Some people may also develop headaches, limited neck mobility or sharp, intense pain in the neck.

  • Back pain

    Another complication of poor posture is ongoing or chronic back pain and discomfort. While any portion of the spine may be affected, many people develop pain in the lower back, known as the lumbar spine. Without proper posture or workplace ergonomics, you may be at an increased risk for low or middle back pain or discomfort.

  • Fatigue

    At the end of a workday, you may also notice you are tired. While being tired is a normal effect of spending the day accomplishing tasks, chronic fatigue may occur due to improper office ergonomics. One reason for fatigue is movement deprivation from spending most of your day stationary, leading to persistent feelings of lethargy. 

  • Muscle stiffness

    Office workers may also be more prone to muscle imbalances and muscle stiffness from limited movements. Muscle stiffness can cause a limited range of motion, pain and discomfort. Stretching and taking breaks to move regularly can help reduce muscle stiffness.

How to Sit at a Desk Properly for Your Back

While sitting is a regular aspect of our daily lives, there are several things to consider when ensuring you have proper posture at your desk. Firstly, you will want to maintain a comfortable distance from your keyword, desk and monitor. You should not be too close to your workstation and not too far to avoid straining.

Another critical aspect to consider is proper arm support. You should have an armrest that maintains arm and wrist comfort while ensuring you sit with good posture. Generally, your elbows should remain at slightly more than a 90-degree angle.

If you notice you continue to slouch or crane your neck to see your monitor, you may want to adjust the height of your chair. You should set your chair height so your knees are either the same height or even a little lower than your hips.

Finally, you will want to pay attention to spinal support. While support for your whole back is needed, lumbar support for your lower back is one of the most important aspects to consider. If you do not have proper lumbar support, you may want to invest in a lumbar pillow or spinal cushion to help rest your back.

Ergonomic Desk Setup for Your Posture

It is easy to lose track of how much time you spend sitting at your desk each day at work. While you may not actively think about it, computer desk ergonomics play an essential role in your day-to-day comfort and overall health. Without proper posture at your desk, you may notice aches, pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulders and back.

An ergonomic workstation can support your body and spine in a neutral position to reduce pain, discomfort and other stressors that can negatively impact our bodies. The best posture for sitting at a desk means you’re not twisting your spine, you’re not bending your neck down uncomfortably, you’re not contorting your hands and wrists, and you’re not extending your arms beyond their normal range. Five critical aspects of proper work posture include:

  • 1. Screen Position

    The position of your monitors directly influences the health of your eyes and may lead to strain and fatigue. It is recommended that your monitor is eye level so you don’t have to bend or crane your neck. Place the monitor so the top of it is at eye level — you should be looking slightly down to see the middle of the screen. The monitor should also be about one arm’s length away from you.

    If your monitor is too low, you can invest in a monitor rise to raise your screen or even place your monitor on a sturdy stack of books in a pinch.

  • 2. Desk Height

    One important aspect of desk ergonomics includes a proper desk height, which allows you to work at your desk while holding your wrists and arms naturally. An appropriate desk height should also help keep your arms angled down toward your lap and remain parallel to the floor, reducing overall strain. The average height of computer desks is between 28 to 30 inches.

    The average desk height is ideal for someone roughly 5 feet 10 inches or taller. Unfortunately, the average desk height is not suitable for most people shorter than this height, meaning shorter people may need to adjust for this.

    To adjust your desk height, you can mount a keyboard and tray under the desk to improve your height relative to your workstation. You can also choose a chair with higher armrests to keep your wrists above your keyboard. If you decide to raise your chair, you will want to ensure you keep your feet flat on the floor.

  • 3. Desk Chair

    Another aspect that directly influences your desk posture includes the quality and height of your desk chair. When assessing your desk chair, you will want to ensure you press your back comfortably against the backrest and that your mid and lower back are cushioned appropriately. You should also note any gaps between your chair and the spine.

    The ideal desk chair will support the natural curvature of your spine. If your lower back does not have adequate cushioning, you may need lumbar support to promote proper spine alignment. If you work an office job, you spend much of your day and week sitting at your desk, making the height and support of your desk chair important.

    If you already have a desk chair, there are certain investments you can make to enhance its overall comfort. If your desk chair lacks proper support, you can invest in a lumbar-support or spinal pillow to cushion your back. Back pillows are ideal for chairs that lack proper cushioning and lumbar support.

  • 4. Footrests

    A footrest below your desk can enhance your posture and improve blood circulation. The desk and chair height may inhibit shorter people from sitting comfortably and resting their feet on the ground. A footrest can be ideal for people under the average height who may need additional foot support while at their desks.

    A footrest helps keep your body in an upright and healthy posture, preventing your legs from uncomfortably hanging. Footrests help improve blood flow, reducing the likelihood of experiencing leg pain and stiffness, blood clots and varicose veins. If a chair is too high and you do not have a footrest, you might end up sitting cross-legged or with poor posture.

    Sitting cross-legged or in the same position too long may increase your risk of discomfort and poor posture. A footrest helps keep your feet and ankles moving, reducing the likelihood of your legs remaining static for extended periods of time.

  • 5. Wrist Rests

    In addition to footrests, a wrist rest can help keep your hands and arms elevated rather than bending at an uncomfortable angle. When you are not actively working on your keyboard or computer, a wrist rest allows your hands and wrists to relax with support to minimize the risk of discomfort or pain. Wrist rests may also help improve circulation and blood flow.

Proper Posture for Standing Desks

A standing desk allows you more mobility and versatility while working. To achieve proper posture when using a standing desk, you will want to adjust the desk to the height of your elbows. As you work, be mindful of your posture and ensure you keep a neutral spine. If you notice you are craning your neck or rounding your shoulders, you will want to straighten your spine and correct this posture. As you work using a standing desk, keep your wrists straight and parallel to the desk’s surface.
  • Enhanced posture

    Working at a standing desk can improve your posture, reducing the likelihood of muscle stiffness and back pain. The versatility of a standing desk allows you to work while sitting or standing to stretch muscles and prevent stiffness from settling in and reducing your range of motion.
  • Improved back pain

    Back pain is one of the most common issues office workers deal with daily. Improper posture combined with an uncomfortable chair and workstation may increase the risk of people experiencing short- or long-term back pain.

    Research has found that a sit-stand device in the workplace can reduce the overall time spent sitting down and provide numerous health benefits to workers, including alleviating back pain.

  • Boosted energy levels

    Standing desks can improve employees’ mood and general well-being, which may help reduce feelings of lethargy or sluggishness. Versatility in movement and posture helps reduce the feeling of being tired from a lack of activity. Extended periods of sedentary time are often associated with negative moods and lower energy levels.

  • Bolstered productivity

    When employees feel good and are comfortable in their workplace, they are more likely to focus on their responsibilities and less time thinking about potential distractions, including soreness, pain or stiffness.

    Standing desks provide employees with additional mobility and comfort, allowing them to focus on their various responsibilities, boosting productivity and efficiency.

Take Breaks From Your Desk

An important aspect of creating an ergonomic working environment and routine is implementing breaks into your schedule. You can take micro-breaks and rest breaks during your workday.

Micro-breaks are short periods of rest that are only a minute or two long, making them ideal after completing a project or sending out an email. During a micro-break, you can rest your hands and arms in a relaxed, neutral position to prevent discomfort. While micro-breaks are shorter, they allow you a moment to stand, stretch or rest, improving your comfort. While a micro-break may not be a break from work, it can be a break for your eyes and muscles to relax.

Every hour, you can also take a brief rest break. During this break, you can stand up and get some movement in to stretch your legs and muscles and prevent feelings of stiffness or soreness. Rest breaks are ideal for minimizing slouching and feeling refreshed.

Learn More Tips for Dealing with Back Pain at Work

Find Relief for Your Back Pain

At the Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC), we understand that back pain can be challenging to deal with and distract you from your professional and personal obligations. We treat a wide range of spinal conditions, including degenerative disc diseasedisc tearspinched nerves and more. Our team of experts offers endoscopic spinal surgery to improve back pain and improve our patients’ overall quality of life.

Some of our most popular spinal treatments include artificial disc replacementmicro-discectomy and fusion or fusion alternatives. We strive to provide the most innovative and effective spinal treatments to reduce back pain and discomfort. We take an individualized approach to each patient to ensure they receive the treatment that is right for them.

Find relief for your back pain and contact us online today to schedule an appointment.

Visit Here to Schedule An Appointment

Previous ArticleDr. Chris Yeung Panelist at UCI Health Webinar Next ArticleHelpful Daily Habits for Chronic Back Pain Relief at Home