Workstation Ergonomics


July 18 2011

by Mike Marcin, PT

Many of us notice aches and pains when sitting at a desk for long periods.  These can be annoying at first, but can also turn into serious medical issues if not properly addressed.

Keep in mind, we have many things on our desks, and it is helpful to consider the impact of having them in the wrong position:

  • Monitor – should be an arms-length away to avoid slouching and gazing to see the screen
  • Keyboard – keep it close to you, are your elbows bent (preferred), or are they almost straight as you reach for the keyboard.
  • Document stand – these are helpful to avoid looking down at papers on your desk on a regular basis.  A document stand can be put next to the monitor or attached directly to a monitor
  • Mouse – keep your mouse as close to you as possible, preferably right next to the keyboard
  • Gel pads – these are helpful to avoid pressure on the wrist which can lead to problems such as carpal tunnel.  Gel pads are helpful in front of both the keyboard and mouse.
  • Phone – do you tip your head to hold the phone?  Do you hold the phone next to your ear for long periods?  If so, consider a headset to reduce stress on the neck.

Most importantly, try to get up and move every thirty minutes, stretch if you need to, and always sit up tall with good posture.

What to Look for in a Properly Fit Office Chair


June 20, 2011

by Mike Marcin, PT

As many people sit at their desk a majority of their day, sitting in an improperly fit chair can lead to repetitive strain and aches and pains throughout the body.

Here are a few things to consider in using your office chair:

  • Are you using the back support properly?  They are often adjustable, and can be raised or lowered.  It is very important to have good support for your lower back.
  • Are you using the arm rests?  You should be able to rest your forearms on the armrests and let your shoulders relax.  If you’re not using them, you often are holding up your arms, which can lead to stress on the shoulders and neck.  Armrests can often be raised or lowered, and in better chairs, be turned in or out.
  • Your ankles, knees, and hips should be at a 90 degree angle.  If you cannot reach this position, consider raising your chair; or if you cannot touch the floor, consider an elevated foot rest.
  • Is the seat too deep or shallow? Some seats move forward or backward.  Look for three fingers of space between your knees and the seat.
  • Seat width is often overlooked.  Sometimes a wider chair fits people better, and sometimes a narrower chair may be better for your body type.

Also, keep in mind, if your desk gets in the way of making the needed changes with your chair, you may benefit from an ergonomic workstation evaluation.

Knee Pain and Osteoarthritis


April 28, 2011

by Kristy Carpenter, P.T., D.P.T.

Osteoarthritis, also referred to as “degenerative arthritis”, is a painful condition that causes a breakdown of the cartilage that surrounds joints. The knee joint is a common site for this condition. This can occur over a course of months or years. Without this healthy cartilage in the knee joint, bones can make contact and grind away at each other, causing pain. Other symptoms can include stiffness, loss of motion, swelling, and tenderness. Whether your symptoms are mild pain after a long walk or severe pain after standing for only a few minutes, physical therapy may help.

What you can do to help alleviate or minimize your pain:

  1. Wear good supportive shoes. Avoid wearing heels greater than 1 inch or flat shoes without good arch support.
  2. Apply moist heat or ice, or both. Moist heat can be helpful to improve circulation and decrease stiffness. Ice can be beneficial after vigorous activity or when swelling is present. Alternating moist heat and ice for 5 minute intervals can also help with pain. Make sure to sit down and elevate the leg while doing this.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Reducing weight can decrease the amount of stress on your knee joint.
  4. Strengthen your muscles. Strong muscles surrounding your knee joint can take some of the load off your knees. Hip muscles and ankle muscles are also important to strengthen, so don’t forget about them.
  5. See your physical therapist. We can give you an individualized program directed at your impairments and functional restrictions. Physical therapists can provide a variety of interventions that may include therapeutic exercise, aquatic therapy, manual therapy techniques, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, taping techniques, and a home program to continue with your success at home.

Most importantly, see your physician. There are other conditions that may also cause knee joint pain, so getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in determining the most appropriate treatment.