Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center, explained that good posture trains your body to stand, walk, sit, and lie properly to reduce the strain on muscles and ligaments while moving or doing weight-bearing activities. Good posture prevents backache and muscular pain and keeps your bones and joints in the proper position. The latter ensures that your muscles are being used properly.
Good posture helps minimize the risk of wear and tear of joint surfaces like the knee to prevent arthritis. It also prevents fatigue because your muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing your body to consume less energy. With more people working at home, how can we ensure that we have proper posture and bid farewell to back or muscle pain?
Survey On the Awareness of Good Posture and Computer Ergonomics Among Medical Students In Isra University (2015)
Hafiz Muhammad Hussain and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate conducted a cross-sectional study on 100 medical students at Isra University in Hyderabad. All respondents answered the survey, revealing that 20% of students worked in their computer for three to four hours. This was followed by those working in their computer for four to five hours (32%), five to six hours (27%), and more than six hours (20%).
80% of students knew what good posture is while 20% said they did not know what it is. Regarding the students’ perception of good posture, 34% thought that good posture refers to the position in which there is less stress placed on the spine.
66% of respondents said good posture refers to the position that is comfortable for the person while working. When asked about their use of ergonomic support while working/studying when using the computer, 14% did not attempt the question, 66% answered that they use some type of ergonomic support, and 20% said they don’t use ergonomic support. When asked if a change of posture while using the computer and increasing movement is important in minimizing one’s risk of injury, approximately 80% of students said “true” while 20% answered “false.”
Further, 60% of respondents answered “true” to the statement, “Using a mouse is an important factor in causing discomfort and is ignored as a safety measure.” However, 39% of students considered it as “false.” 81% answered “true” to the statement “Bending your neck for long periods of time to look at your screen or adopting awkward typing positions can lead to health issues.” Only 19% of respondents considered this statement as “false.”
Regarding the perception of the respondents on good practice when using computers and laptops, 17% said it involves avoiding awkward postures, 14% said it involves taking regular breaks, and 13% answered stretching your hands and shoulders every 20 to 30 minutes. Only 56% of students answered that all the aforementioned are good practices.
When asked about ergonomic furniture/equipment they use while studying/working, 46% said they used an ergonomic chair, 2% used an ergonomic mouse, and 1% used an ergonomic keyboard. 12% used back support and 38% did not answer the question. The findings showed that while most students claimed to be aware of good posture, their answers revealed a lack of knowledge about it.
Three Ways to Make Remote Work More Comfortable
1. Invest In Good Equipment
In the office, you are more likely to have a computer monitor that is at or slightly below eye level and an arm’s length and a chair that supports your lower back and helps you access your mouse— the latter being a better alternative than using a trackpad, said Bryan Lufkin of British news channel BBC.
Not everyone has a home office, but that does not mean there is nothing you can do to improve your workstation. For example, you can invest in a mouse, a good office chair, and a standalone keyboard or monitor to ergonomically set up your work station. You can also use items such as a stack of books to raise your laptop to the right height and place your keyboard below it if you can’t afford to purchase those accessories.
“The critical issue is to separate the keyboard from the monitor so you can get your monitor at the right line of sight: eye level or slightly below. Then adjust your keyboard or input device so that your elbow angle is around 90 degrees,” explained Dr Susan Hallbeck, Ph.D., a doctor and the president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and researcher at the Mayo Clinic.
The point of ergonomics is to avoid “microtraumas” or the tiny strains you put on your joints and muscles. Those strains may be invisible at the moment, but will manifest as long-term health complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains or finger, shoulder, and back injuries, and more.
2. Practice Good Posture
Is it a good idea to work in the kitchen or the dining room? The disadvantage of working in dining room tables is that the chairs may be lower than those in offices. You can’t adjust the height of dining room chairs, which is bad for your forearms. Hence, Hallbeck recommended using small towel or washcloth, folding it below your arms “so you don’t have that pressure point.”
If you are sitting on hard wooden chairs, it is recommended to place a small pillow behind you at your waist to provide lumbar support. Relax your shoulders and arms, which should be at a 90-degree angle and ensure that your back is against the chair.
If you are living in a flat or sharing a space with your roommates, creating a home office will not be feasible. In that case, you can use pillows to support your lower back or place one below your thighs to minimize pressure on your lower back. Use or create a tray for your laptop and put the monitor slightly below eye level. Your elbows should be kept at 90 degrees. The ideal workstation is at a table or desk, but try to avoid the bed or couch as much as possible, reminded Kirsty Angerer, an ergonomics consultant based in Leicester, England.
3. Get Up and Get Moving
People are now moving less than they were at the office considering that everything in the house is a few steps away, noted Angerer. Make it a goal to move every 30 minutes outside or in another room. The rationale here is to vary your posture to prevent strain. Don’t forget to move your eyes too. Since they are a muscle, try to take your eyes off the screen and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to avoid eye strain.
Maintaining good posture while working from home can be a challenge for people who don’t have their own home office. They can use a stack of books and a kitchen towel for proper computer ergonomics. Most importantly, remote workers should intermittently get up from their workstations to prevent eye or muscle strain.