Sit At A Desk All Day? The "90-90-90" Position That Could Save You From Back, Neck, Arm & Hand Pain
Apr 17, 2018
This content is brought to you in partnership with OrthoCarolina, one of the nation's leading orthopedic practices with offices across the Southeast.
Sitting at a desk all day might be a necessary evil for your job — but who said it was necessary for you to experience back, arm, neck, or hand pain because of it?
When you think of activities that are "physically challenging," your mind probably jumps to a workout class or something else that makes you sweat. But the truth is, it's physically challenging on your body to sit for long periods of time, too.
If you have to sit at a desk all day for your job, don't worry! There are methods you can put in place (like the "90-90-90 position") to keep your desk job from being detrimental to your physical health. We spoke to Carol Green, a P.T. (Physical Therapist), C.O.M.T (Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist), and Clinical Specialist II at OrthoCarolina, to find out more.
Step One: Find the Right Chair
Ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in their working environment. A major contributor to that efficiency? Physical comfort.
"With our computer generation, many people tend to sit all day with infrequent breaks," explained Green. "This type of labor can involve very intense work at a desk, which may involve leaning forward while looking at the computer screen."
As you may have guessed, sitting (and leaning forward) for such extended periods of time does not do your body any favors! But you do have some degree of control over the physical toll this amount of sitting takes on your body.
Though you may think any old seat will do, choosing the right chair is key to minimizing physical discomfort (and the likelihood of back, arm, neck, or hand pain) in the workplace.
"It is important to start with a proper adjustable height chair with good lumbar support," Green advised. "You need a chair with a natural inward curve to maintain lower back support." Additionally, the back of the chair needs to come up high enough to support your shoulders.
And what about the seat of your chair?
"A cushioned seat pan will alleviate pressure on the gluteal (buttock) muscles during sitting," said Green. She added that the seat pan of the chair should have a waterfall effect, where the edge of the pan curves away from the underside of your legs. "Using a flat-seated chair pan risks impeding the blood flow in your legs," she explained.
If possible, Green added that you should seek out a swivel chair that allows you to move or change position. "Your chair will rotate instead of you having to twist or side-bend your spine," she said. "This will alleviate stress to the muscles."
Step Two: Sit In The "90-90-90" Position
Anytime you're at your desk, you should be seated in the "90-90-90 Position." This means that your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle, your hips should be at a 90-degree angle, and your knees should be at a 90-degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor beneath your chair.
"Your ear should be aligned above the shoulder, and the shoulder should be aligned above the hip, for optimal spinal position," Green explained. "If your arms are winged out, it can dramatically increase the tension in your neck and shoulder area."
Green also offered the following tips for perfecting the "90-90-90 Position," to improve your posture and decrease chances of back, neck, arm, or hand pain:
- When you are keying at the computer, make sure your wrist is straight (rather than cocked up or down) in order to avoid irritation, which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or other issues.
- The best keyboard height is usually about 25 inches from floor. Use a keyboard tray, which will allow for maximum efficiency and comfort.
- The top of the screen of a regular computer should be about an inch below eye level because as we read, we read down so your eyes fall down rather than going upward.
Step Three: Get Moving
To decrease the likelihood of physical discomfort, Green also recommends getting up from your desk every 15 to 30 minutes.
"Get up out of your chair and move," she said. "Walk to the kitchen, to the printer, or go climb your office stairs. Just like your body needs water, movement rehydrates the discs and lubricates your joints."
Learn More About Building Strength & Protecting Your Body From the Experts at OrthoCarolina
Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.