Your body wasn't designed to sit in front of a computer for hours. But if it's inescapable, you can decrease your likelihood of pain caused by improper positioning by following your body's built-in curves and alignment.
"Keeping to the body's natural design tends to be the best way to use our tendons, joints and muscles," says Sheila Dugan, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Rush University Medical Center. "If you're primarily a computer user, you have to be thoughtful about your positioning."
To help you do that, Dugan recommends paying attention to these curves:
The inward curve of your low back and the outward curve of your upper back. The goal is to give these curves the support they need. One of the easiest ways to do that is with your chair, Dugan says. A decent chair will curve out a little or have a cushion right above your waist, so it's important to sit all the way back in your chair to take advantage of that. This promotes healthy back curves, helps prevent strained muscles and takes extra pressure — which can lead to disc herniation — off the discs in your spine.
The inward curve of your neck. For a natural neck curve, your head should be over your shoulders and you should be looking straight ahead at your computer screen. If you're bending your neck forward for long periods of time, the strain on your muscles can cause neck pain and headaches.
The curves of your wrists. When you use a keyboard or a mouse correctly, the backs of your wrists should be mostly straight, as they are when you relax your arms at your sides. This is your neutral wrist position. Curving your wrists back too much can cause excess tension on your tendons, possibly causing tendonitis or constriction of the median nerve, which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
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