Why does working at my desk make me ache?
The answer may be because I don’t want to be there! However, I want to focus on more postural considerations. I frequently advise patients on workstation setup. Here are the 4 most important but overlooked points:
The keyboard should be placed close enough so that your elbows are by the side of your body, and no further forward. Any who work at a computer but also have to write on paper will naturally push their keyboard away to make space to write on the paper. However, when next working on the computer, we frequently fail to draw the keyboard back to its correct position. In particular, if I think a task will ‘just take a minute’, I will reach over the paperwork to perform the task. How often does that ‘one minute task’ turn into 10 or 15 minutes, during which time I am reaching with my arms, putting much more strain on my neck and shoulders? It is a nuisance to have to shuffle paper around and out of the way, but it will reduce strain and therefore aching considerably.
If your working chair has arms, look carefully to see whether the arms prevent you moving the chair close enough to the desk. If this is the case then you will be unable to reach the keyboard at any time without having to reach forward (remember, elbows by your sides). If practicable, it is better to remove the arms of the chair, but otherwise an alternative chair would be better. This is more important than being able to rest your elbows on the arms.
Using the desk and chair as intended!
You may have received the best advice and set up the best office chair correctly, but this is only beneficial while you sit in the correct position. It is still possible to slump or to lean on your elbows, to lean forwards to reach the keyboard or other pieces of equipment for longer periods than is absolutely necessary (for instance when on the phone). It still takes discipline to maintain good posture.
Staying at the desk for too long
Even with good posture, it is important for your muscles and joints, your circulation, and your concentration that you get out of your chair regularly. This moves the joints, stretches your muscles, and stimulates your circulation and hopefully perks up your brain.
Working under pressure
Working under moderate pressure is healthy, because it stimulates us to perform effectively. However working under constant excess pressure, even in the best posture and workstation setup can lead to constant muscle tension, resulting in fatigue, aching and pain. Tell-tale signs might be that we do not take coffee breaks, or even lunch breaks, and feel that we are constantly chasing our tails. All of these strategies mentioned above will help minimise the strain, but ultimately the work pressure needs to be discussed with management if possible.
For a fuller description of how to set up a workstation correctly follow this link.