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Why Your Computer Desk Is Breaking Your Back (And How To Fix It)


poor posture

By Shelley Little

Hello web surfer. I see you sitting there, hunched over your desk, squinting at your computer screen. Take a moment to take stock of your body and your posture. I bet you look something like this (above, source: Hello Doctor).

When in reality, you should look more like this (below, source: Greatist):

how to sit properly at a desk

Let’s get real. Who can force themselves to sit rod-straight all day, with perfect posture and a 90-degree arm bend, as shown in the above image? We can try to compel our bodies to sit like that, but we know that five minutes later we’ll be slouched back over our desks, melting into our computer screens.

However, studies have shown that the most common cause of neck pain is a forward-leaning head and shoulder posture (the exact posture most of us have while sitting at our computer desk), leading to degenerative disc disease and neck problems. Poor sitting posture is no laughing matter and can lead to chronic pain and serious injuries. So, what can we do about it?

Since perfect posture is uncomfortable and feels unnatural — no one wants to walk around (or sit around) with a book on their head—perhaps our desks and workspaces should conform to our bodies and work habits, rather than forcing our bodies to uncomfortably contort into straight sticks.

Follow this ergonomic how-to, with recommendations backed by the Mayo Clinic, that will help you revamp your workstation into a comfortable place to work, keeping you free of back aches, neck pain and poor posture.

Sit up and take notice of this workspace makeover guide:

Proper desk measurements.

  • Your desk should be 19 inches deep, 30 inches wide and approximately 40 inches high (depending on individual height).
  • The space under your desk should be clear and allow plenty of room for your legs, feet and thighs. Don’t use the space under your desk for storage or filing cabinets.
  • Finding the right desk height is the hardest, so try this: sit comfortably in front of the desk with your arms at your sides and then bend your elbows to 90 degrees. If the palms of your hands are not flat on the top of the desk when you do this, then it is the wrong desk height for you.
  • If you are also a gamer, there some ergonomic gaming desks that are designed specifically for gaming purpose. Make sure to check them out to provide yourself with the best comfort when playing games for long hours.”

Choosing the right chair.

  • Only buy a chair that offers seat, height and lumbar adjusting options.
  • Adjust your chair height so that your feet rest comfortably flat on the floor.
  • Adjust your seat angle to ensure your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Lumbar can be adjusted in the manner that is most comfortable to you. 

How to place your computer monitor and keyboard on your desk.

  • Your computer monitor should be placed straight in front of you (not to the side or at an angle) at an arm’s length away.
  • The top of your screen should be just below your eye level.
  • Your keyboard and mouse should be directly in front of you and easy to reach without causing your body to stretch and bend forward.
  • The keyboard placement should allow you to type with straight wrists, with upper arms that are placed comfortably by your side and hands at or just below your elbows.

It is amazing (and a bit scary) to think about how imperative a proper desk and workstation can be to your overall spine health. Just think of the hours you spend each day in front of your computer screen — all those hours could be ticking away at your body’s health!

It’s best to shop around to find the right desk that conforms to your personal work habits, and be sure to follow the guidelines outlined above, ensuring a healthy workspace for years to come.


Shelley Little

Shelley Little writes on home design and décor for Home Depot. When Shelley isn’t busy writing about home design, she’s often designing or decorating her own home in Iowa. To view Home Depot’s broad selection of desks for the home office, you can visit www.homedepot.com.