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Do you suffer from back or neck pain?

The other day at dinner during some idle chit-chat with my wife she mentioned a presentation she attended about ergonomics and how to minimise back and neck pain from sitting at a computer all day.

The following morning at breakfast I found presentation handouts she had left on our kitchen table, and I started skimming over them. Before I knew it, I had read them all. They were so informative that after breakfast I came into my office and made some adjustments to my workspace.

Then I thought to myself if this information is useful enough for me to make changes. Then I’m sure you could benefit from this as well. After all, as designers, we spend most of our time sitting in front of a computer or staring at a smartphone or tablet.

I go into much more detail in the podcast so be sure to listen to this episode to learn more.

Setting up your workstation to minimise back and neck pain.

Proper sitting and standing positions

Adjusting your chair

Your chair and how it's adjusted is a significant factor in minimising back and neck pain. When you are sitting in your chair, the ideal position should follow the 90/90/90 principle throughout your body. Meaning your back should be at a 90-degree angle to your hips. Your thighs should be at a 90-degree angle to your legs and spine, with your feet flat on the floor.

Your elbows should be at your side, and your upper and lower arms should make a 90-degree angle with your wrists parallel to your forearms.

Adjust the height of your chair or keyboard tray so that your arms remain at this neutral position while typing. If your chair has armrests, adjust them to this level as well. If you have short legs, you may want to get a footrest.

The 90/90/90 principle is the ideal position to minimise strain on your joints and muscles.

The critical thing here is to have a good chair. I know it’s sometimes hard to justify spending money on an expensive chair. But try to remember, you will be sitting in it every day week after week, year after year. It's worth investing in something that is not only comfortable but something that will support you adequately.

Setting up your computer.

It doesn't matter what setup you use as your workstation there are ways of optimising it to minimise back and neck pain. Here are a few different scenarios.

Laptop Users

Laptops are very convenient for people on the go. However, if you use one as your regular workstation here are some things you should consider.

To prevent neck strain, you should position your laptop so that the top of your laptop screen is at your eye level. You may need to use a laptop pedestal or something to raise it up to the right level. Even a few reams of paper or books can act as a pedestal.

Naturally raising your laptop will make it difficult to type so you may want to get a separate keyboard and mouse that you can connect directly to the laptop or a docking station.

Desktop users

Desktop users should follow a similar plan to laptop users. The top of your monitor should be at eye level. There are stylish stands available to raise your computer or monitor to the proper level.

Ideally, your screen should be at arm's length away. Meaning you should be able to fully extend your arm and touch it. If need be, adjust the resolution or magnification so that everything is easily readable.

Tablet Users

If you use a tablet on a regular basis, such as an iPad a Surface or any other Drawing Tablet, you may want to look into a stand or easel that will hold it at the proper position to minimise neck strain. Looking down at a tablet can create the equivalent of 27kb (60lbs) of stress on your neck and spine.

Standing Desks

If you are someone who uses a standing desk, it's a good idea to get a footstool and alternate elevating one foot at a time to relieve stress on your back.

Remember to Use A Neutral Position When Working

A lot of this sounds like common sense, but the fact is we don’t always follow what common sense tells us. After reading these papers, my wife left behind I made some adjustments to my chair and workstation. In the days since I’ve already noticed some differences.

Don’t forget to stretch

Setting up a proper workstation is only half the solution. Our bodies are made to move. Don't let it seize up by sitting in your chair for hours at a time. Set yourself a reminder to get up out of your chair at least once an hour. Even if it’s just to stretch your body and sit back down. Yes, it's common sense but how many people do it?

What do you do to minimise back and neck pain?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Chris

I'm a young kid (16) and I would like to do some volunteer work for graphic design. I have a small portfolio of “personal projects” and i've practiced graphic design for the last 4 years and am ready to delve into client work. How would you recommend finding volunteer graphic design work for a young student?

To find out what I told Chris you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Wordmark.it

Wordmark.it used to sample all the fonts you have installed on your computer and makes it extremely easy to choose the perfect font for the project you are working on. Simply visit the site, type in a word or phrase of your choosing and click “load fonts”. In no time flat, you will see your word/phrase displayed in every font you have installed. You can use various filters to adjust the size, case, and readability of the fonts. Simply click the fonts you are interested in and then view only the ones you selected.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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