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Health corner: Position yourself to avoid strain

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

About 70 percent of American workers sit on the job. That helps explain the explosion in neck and back pain complaints among employees in recent years.

Even with heightened awareness of proper ergonomics, many people still spend each workday contributing to cumulative micro-trauma to their tissues and joints. They may slouch in their chairs, abuse their wrists when typing or habitually tense their arms and hunch their backs.

Audit your workstation to identify ergonomic hazards. Begin with your chair. Make sure you can adjust its height so that your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. The seat should support the length of your thighs.

Now focus on lumbar support. The back of the chair should come in contact with your spine. If it doesn't, you run the risk of straining your back as you bend over your keyboard. Some workers position a mirror nearby so they can monitor whether they're hunching over their desk. A "lumbar roll" can help cushion the lower back. To reach for something at your side, turn your chair while keeping your back straight. Never twist your spine.

On a long plane ride, you know to get up and walk occasionally. After 50 minutes of sitting at your desk, apply the same rule and stand for 10 minutes. Stretch your muscles, drink water and give your eyes a break from the computer monitor.

Line up your computer

Sit up straight at your desk. Look at your monitor and check your neck. You should not be looking up at the screen; the top of the computer should be at eye level or a bit below. That way, your line of sight runs slightly down by 10 to 20 degrees.

Measure the distance between your eyes and the screen. It should be about 20 to 28 inches. If you are over 40 and wear bifocals, you risk eyestrain by sitting at the computer all day. Reduce screen glare and prop up documents at eye level alongside the monitor.

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