The basic set-up

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Start by looking at your seat. You should sit right back into your chair, so have your bottom to the back of the seat. When you’re sat up straight, the chair should be supporting the curve of the lower back. Office- style chairs may have an adjustable lower back support. You can buy lower back/lumbar supports if necessary. Cushions and pillows perhaps will offer temporary assistance.

So you should be sitting well in your chair. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, bring your elbows into your side and your forearms out horizontally. The level of your forearms should indicate the ideal height of the desk. So you may now need to adjust the height of the chair? You need to try and keep a flat wrist and hand to avoid overstrain of these areas. It’s personal preference if you use an armrest, and sometimes whether it is practical. Some people like them to keep their upper limb relaxed. Sometimes they prevent you pulling yourself close to your desk. If this is the case they maybe aren’t appropriate as you should be able to do this.

You may have to adjust the tilt of the seat base of the chair. The ideal is to have an angle of 90 to 120 degrees at the hip. So really this means that your knees should be level with or just below the hips. Feet should be flat on the floor, or on a footrest if preferred, or necessary.

So you should be sitting tucked in close to your desk. We now need to look at how the desktop is arranged. Your monitor needs to be set straight ahead of you, at an arm’s length away. The top of the monitor should be level with your line-of-sight. The keyboard should be straight ahead of you, and within easy reach. Everything you use regularly should be within easy reach. So the mouse, the phone any documents…

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, then a head-set may be a wise purchase to avoid the tendency to tuck the phone between your ear and shoulder. Or using a hands-free function on the phone. There are different style mouses which change the digit and position they are worked by and in. This may be helpful if you’re suffering any strains through the upper limb. Document holders may be useful if it’s necessary to constantly be referring to paperwork.

Above describes the very basic points to consider. There can be many different configurations depending on the nature of the work.  Feel free to email me with any queries.

It’s important to make sure you get up and move around regularly, try every 30 to 45 minutes.

THIS IS AN EXERCISE YOU MAY HAVE SEEN BEFORE! I have included it in this post as upper back stiffness is a common consequence of poor workstation posture. It is one of my favourite Pilates exercises.

These exercises shouldn’t cause pain, if you experience a problem, stop the exercise and consult your Osteopath or other medical practitioner. If you have an existing complaint, it would be wise to consult your practitioner to check these exercises are appropriate for you.

Lie on your side. For good positioning, think about the hips and shoulders being stacked on top of one another. Have the knees ahead of you and slightly bent. Place your hands gently clasped behind your head and neck, as in a sit-up position. Raise the upper arm, to open the chest. At the same time rotating the neck and head to look up, and rotating your upper back.

It is important to keep the legs stacked upon one another and the pelvis stable. In this way you will be able to focus the movement in the upper back. At the end of the movement, take a deep breath into your rib cage to further expand the thorax. With control move back to the start position, and repeat 5 times on each side.

NB To maintain the position of your pelvis, you will need to think about activating your core muscles. So you pull up your pelvic floor (the muscle you would use to stop yourself having a wee), and contract your lower abdomen (pull your navel back to the spine). Keep practising, if you haven’t used these muscles specifically for a while, it can take some time to get used to. Pilates can really help you find and work these muscles effectively.

If you would like some assistance on how to find and contract your core muscles. Take a look at the October 2012 posting.

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