Ergonomic Advice for Setting Up Your Computer Properly


Please welcome Dr. David Oliver who has renamed his chiropractic, rehab and massage practice from Newton Wellness Center to Move Well Chiropractic to better reflect what he does. This week, he focuses on preventing back pain by having you closely examine just how you are set up at your computer.

Proper Ergonomic Set Up for Computer Users 

If you are using a laptop as your main computer you are actually placing even more stress on your spine than with a desktop. Since the screen is attached to the computer, it places your neck in an anterior and forward flexed position – leading to increased muscular tension in your neck and upper back. This also places your spine in a stressed position which, with prolonged exposure can lead to earlier spinal degeneration.

I recommend switching to a desktop or modify the way you use your laptop. For example, some people get docking stations or external monitors which, help put the screen in the proper position. For a cheaper alternative you can place your laptop on a stack of books – bringing it up to the proper height (mentioned below). You then need to buy an external keyboard and external mouse (can be found now a days for about $20) well worth the money when you look at the long term gains! Once you have your laptop set up; as if it were a desktop, follow the mentioned corrections and guidelines below.

Monitor Position

Most people’s monitors are too low– causing the individual to look down and move their head forward. This causes increased stress on the spine and muscles of the neck and back – as they try to support your head. Did you know that your head weighs as much as a bowling ball (approx 10-14lbs?!) Therefore, if you have it in front of your body those muscles attached to it must work overtime to support it. Research has shown that for every inch your head is in front of your body it gains 10lbs in pressure placed on the body!

The top of the monitor should be at the level of your eyebrows and no higher than the top of your head. Placing the monitor on a book or two may be necessary in order to achieve this height. If you use multiple monitors you need to be sure to rotate your chair when changing between monitors – don’t rotate your head. If you find yourself straining to see the monitor you may need to get glasses or change the setting on your computer to make the font larger. The monitor should be 20-40 inches from your head, you can move within this range to gain the best view of the monitor.

Keyboard Position

Most people position their keyboard too highcausing them to work with shrugged shoulders and elevated arms. Whenever we lift our arms or shoulders we activate the muscles of the neck and upper back. In order to understand this concept more, do the following test. Have someone stand behind you while you sit at your desk. Have them place their hands on your upper back and neck. Start with you arms relaxed at your side and have them find areas that are tender or tight. Then raise your arms to reach out and type as you normally do. You will either feel an increased soreness or feel the contraction of your muscles in the areas being touched.

Next, drop your arms down again and only bend slightly at your elbows. You should feel significantly less tension and pain doing this. If you were to work for hours on end with your shoulders and arms elevated, you would cause those muscles to fatigue over time. You would also develop muscular adhesions and trigger points (those extremely common hard painful knots you feel in your upper back and shoulders).

All of this leads to increased pain and discomfort in your upper back and neck. To avoid these complications you need to position your keyboard at the height of your elbows or just below – with your shoulders relaxed, not shrugged. Your elbows should be resting at your side not away from your body.

A lot of times simply raising the height of your chair can correct the problem (remember to adjust the monitor height if you raise your chair). However, for some (either because of desk height or other issues) this does not correct the problem. Some people may need to change desks or have a keyboard drawer installed to allow proper keyboard height. When you finally do get the keyboard to the proper position, remember that your mouse must also be at the same height and close – you should not have to reach for it!

Move Well Chiropractic. 1280 Centre St. Ste. 210. Newton, MA. 02459. 617-641-9999
5 Responses to “Ergonomic Advice for Setting Up Your Computer Properly”
  1. Pragmatic Mom says:

    Biggest favor you can do for yourself is to get a high quality adjustable chair. And have your lights balanced and even

    Posted by Michael Pearce

    From my LinkedIn Group Aquent Network

    • Pragmatic Mom says:

      Great advice! Lining up your hands correctly to the keyboard is so important and an adjustable chair is one great way to do this!

  2. Pragmatic Mom says:

    Don’t forget to take breaks to stretch as well as drink several glasses of water (not juice, soft drinks, or caffeinated drinks) throughout the day; you can still get dehydrated sitting down! It’s hard to sit up straight when you feel sluggish and fatigue is a major symptom of dehydration. I’ve found that proper hydration forces me to get up and take breaks when I should (usually to visit the restroom), so these two goals are easily accomplished in tandem.

    Posted by Matthew Lueck

    From my LinkedIn Group Aquent Network

  3. Pragmatic Mom says:

    I like that idea. Drinking water and taking a break; great multi-tasking that is great for your back!

  4. Pragmatic Mom says:

    I’m not yet ready to drop caffeine

    Posted by Michael Pearce

    From my LinkedIn Group Aquent Network

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