Published on January 20, 2008
On an average day in Bangkok, eight out of 10 office workers will sit in front of a computer monitor for more than four hours and spend another two hours in front of the wheel driving to and from work.
Many of them will feel some discomfort and muscle tension. After a while, their sleep patterns and overall health will be affected, especially since few offices provide the kind of furniture that offers proper support for backs, shoulders or necks.
Chattewee Arin, a physical therapist with the National Institute for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment, a division of the Labour Ministry's Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, has some simple advice to ward off problems at the office.
Ensure your chair is adjusted to support upright posture, allowing your back, shoulders and neck muscles to relax while sitting.
Use the chair for support, not the desk. Sit well back into your chair. Adjust the chair's height to fit your back, keep it low enough to support your lower back and add something for lumbar support.
Sit tall with your head balanced squarely on our shoulders while keeping your shoulders relaxed and elbows tucked close by your sides.
Typing posture is also important. Make sure your elbows are above desk level, roughly level with the middle row of letters on your keyboard.
Use a footrest if your heels are not touching the floor. Sit close to the desk, keep your elbows tucked in at your sides when typing or using the mouse.
Ensure that your upper arms are free to hang vertically down from your shoulders.
Lift your wrists to type, keeping your hands in alignment with your arms. Only rest your wrists on the edge of the desk when not typing or better still, relax your arms by your sides or do some stretching exercises.
Now that your chair is in the right position, move your computer equipment so you can maintain correct posture while working.
The preferred viewing distance is 50 to 100 centimetres, or an arm's distance.
Position of the monitor is also important. A too high or too low monitor may cause tension in the neck, shoulders and back. The top of the monitor should be slightly below eye level, 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level.
Always use an additional keyboard and mouse when you use a laptop for more than an hour at a time.
"Don't forget to stand up and have a short break occasionally. And exercise regularly for 30 minutes at least three times a week," says the therapist Chattewee.
Sleep store Parker & Morgan has introduced a number of speciality pillows for use in the office, home and car that support the body and can help in avoiding neck, back and hip pain. A seat cushion especially designed for people with spinal disorders, helps spread pressure on both buttocks, instead of merely on the tailbone.