9 to 5’s Guide to Proper Sitting Posture

There have been a flurry of articles lately about the dangers of sitting for long periods of time.  With that said, us 9 to 5’ers don’t always have the option of spending our days playing volleyball at the beach.  If your job requires sitting, here are a few tips to set up your desk as ergonomically as possible.

Why Does an Ergonomic Desk Setup Matter?

Maintaining good posture and an ergonomic desk setup can minimize the chances of developing a repetitive stress injury.  It can also make you more productive, and helps prevent muscle and eye strain.

Key Principles of an Ergonomic Desk Setup

At the highest level, the goal is maintain neutral positioning and to avoid putting your muscles and joints in positions that will create strain.  In principle, that typically means positioning things such that that they are easy to reach, and provide for a full range of motion when you need to move things around.

Proper Sitting Posture

This is Mary.  Notice that she is upright, but relaxed, with all of her extremities positioned in as neutral a manner as possible.

So How Should I Position My…


Foot Positioning

Place your feet flat on the ground or rest them on a footrest.  Do not cross your legs or fold your feet below you.  Keep your knees at an open angle.  This will provide you a solid base, and aid in circulation.


Chair Positioning

Sit as far back on the chair as possible.  Ideally, this will mean sitting on your sitz bones (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ischial_tuberosity).  Ensure that this position does not result in the front of the seat pressing against the back of your knees.  If it does, adjust the position of the seat bottom backwards.


Back Positioning

The backrest should be used to support your lower back.  The lumbar support should function so as to position your spine in a neutral position with a natural curvature.


Head Positioning

Keep your head balanced, not leaning forward or backward with your shoulders relaxed.  Again, the goal is a natural and neutral position.  A big part of head positioning is your monitor position.

Position your monitor such that the top of the monitor is roughly at eye level and roughly 20 to 26 inches from your eyes.  This will naturally support a proper head posture and allow your eyes to focus on the monitor.


Arm Positioning

Your arms should fall close your body and your elbows should form roughly a 90 degree angle with your desk.  If the angle is less than 90 degrees, you need to lower your desk to position your arms in a more natural position.

Position your wrists so as to minimize the bend in the wrist joint.  It is often tempting to rest your wrists on a mouse pad while mousing, but doing so may result in “mousing from the wrist,” focusing the movement on the wrist joint.  If possible, mouse with your entire arm.

What Should I do if This is Uncomfortable?

It’s worth putting some thought into why your sitting position is uncomfortable.  Differences in body geometry mean that there is no “one size fits all” ideal posture.  With that said, it takes a degree of discipline, core strength and time to develop good neuromuscular habits in order to reverse bad posture.  It may be that your desk setup is set up incorrectly for your particular body geometry.  Or, it may be that you lack the strength and conditioning in order to sit properly for long periods of time.

It may be that you just need to give it time for your muscles to get used to the new setup.  Not that this is distinctly different from joint pain caused by an RSI injury or an improper positioning that puts pressure on your joints.  In either case, if you feel pain, do not push it.  Re-position yourself, revisit these principles, and give it a go another time.

Have you found any secrets to developing better posture?  What approaches have worked best for you?

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