People of all ages spend many hours every day sitting in a chair at a desk and or in front of a computer while they work and then go home to surf the Internet for pleasure or catch up with friends and family through facebook and e-mail. A person’s positioning during these activities can severely affect comfort, health and well-being.
Occupational Therapists are trained to perform an “ergonomic” evaluation, or an evaluation that determines how well a person fits into his or her environment. A person who does not sit correctly in a chair or strains to use a computer may suffer back pain, neck pain and eyestrain. Most computer equipment and workstations are built to fit adults, but a few simple adjustments can be made to an adult’s work area that will drastically improve comfort and promote a healthier lifestyle free of pain.
What can an Occupational Therapist do?
- Evaluate a person’s current computer workstation setup to determine if it is ergonomically correct and prevents unnecessary strain.
- Inform adults on which equipment can be used to create the healthiest workstation. A few examples of ergonomic computer equipment are special keyboards, keyboard trays, wrist pads, document holders, footrests, and office chairs.
- Educate people and their employers about proper posture and movement to prevent injury and strain.
- Teach stretching activities that can be done at the home or office to promote a healthy spine.
What can a person do to prevent back and neck strain?
- Encourage proper posture of the head, forearms, back, and feet: The head should be level with the monitor and the top of the screen at eye level. The forearms should be held slightly above the keyboard. The lower back should be supported while sitting. A small pillow or rolled up towel between the back of the chair and the lower back can provide ample back support. Feet should remain flat on the floor or on a footstep.
- Arrange the computer monitor to keep glare to a minimum. Situate the monitor 18-30 inches away from the eyes.
- Adjust the height of the chair to follow the guidelines stated above.
Need more information?
Sitting properly at the computer is important to a person’s health. If you would like to consult an Occupational Therapist about an ergonomic evaluation, practitioners are available through most hospitals, community clinics, and medical centers.
Occupational Therapists and occupational therapy assistants are trained in helping both adults and children with a broad range of physical, developmental, and psychological conditions. Practitioners also help clients in wellness techniques that may prevent injury and disease.