By Scott Diamond with contributions from FlexMedStaff
Ergonomics is the study or science of how humans interact with their surroundings to promote
efficiency, safety, and health. Ergonomics can be broken down into three types including
physical, cognitive, and organizational. Some refer to all of it as occupational ergonomics. For
this discussion, “practitioner ergonomics” refers to how practitioners interact with their
environment in the workplace at the hospital, clinic, and home.
The importance of ergonomics does not get spoken about enough. As clinicians, we
communicate daily to our patients about ways to keep ourselves healthy. We talk to them about a
healthy diet, vitamin supplementation, working out, getting enough sleep, and avoiding tobacco
and alcohol. Opening the conversation on how many of your patient’s spend a significant percentage of their time, at work, to look at behaviors, postures, and tools being used can all go a long way towards someone regaining their health and optimizing their performance and productivity.
We can look at ergonomics and creating neutral working postures with the right approach to movement and micro-breaks in the same way as you might spend time speaking to patients about achieving good mental health by staying active, surrounding ourselves with positive people, avoiding anxiety-provoking interactions (i.e., social media), and avoiding drugs and alcohol. Ergonomics can improve our psychiatric, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal health. Adding it as a spoke on the wheel towards improving a patient’s well-being as well as the practitioner’s will provide positive and tangible outcomes.
In this article, we provide a basic guide on how to position yourself at your desk to maximize your
Select the best desk chair.
Adjustable Height. You must be able to adjust the height of your desk chair so that your thighs rest parallel to the floor.
Footrest. If you sit in your seat with your thighs parallel to the ground, but your feet are not flat on the ground, then add a footrest. If you don’t have a professional footrest, then use other items so that your feet rest in a neutral position on a flat surface.
Adjustable Armrest. You must be able to adjust the armrest so that your elbow rests comfortably, placing no stress on your shoulders.
Back Support. You should be able to sit upright with your back flush with the backrest. The backrest should match your spinal curve.
Seat Cushion. You want to select a soft cushion but want that is not to soft that you sit with poor posture. Most importantly, you want to ensure that the seat cushion is not too big. You want your legs to rest 2 inches from the end of the seat cushion (red arrow).
Select your desk.
Adjustable Desk Height. It is preferable that you have a desk where you can easily adjust the height so that your lower extremities can fit underneath. There are desks on the market where the height can effortlessly be adjusted electronically or manually. If the desk is too short and you can’t adjust it, then add blocks or books under the desk legs to increase the height. If the desk is too high, then adjust the height of your chair accordingly and use a footrest.
Clean Edges. Make sure the edge of the desk allows for easy positioning of your forearms and wrists. Some desks have elevated edges and/or sharp edges that make it difficult to work efficiently.
Position yourself correctly.
Monitor. The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. The monitor should sit approximately 1-2 from your face or an arm’s length away.
Keyboard. The keyboard should be positioned 1 inch below elbow height. Your wrist should be straight and lifted above the typing surface. You can use a palm support to rest your palms, not your wrists.
Mouse. Your mouse should be close to avoid having to move your arm too much to work the mouse.
As a medical professional, you should consider how the ergonomics at your desk affect your daily routine. Educating yourself and making adjustments to your setup can greatly impact your overall health.
***Scott Diamond is a chiropractor and founder of Sit2Stand, which specializes in practitioner ergonomics. He is available for personal and company-wide educational services related to this topic. You can connect with him at email@example.com