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What to Do When Work Becomes a Pain in the Neck

You’re probably already familiar with your back or shoulders bothering you at the end of a long day of work. As much as you know that you should practice good posture, it can be hard to remember to sit up straight. But you can set yourself up for success by checking the setup of your desk and chair. Ergonomics can make a big difference in your posture, and whether or not you end up with a stiff, achy back and neck after sitting all day. Here’s what you need to know about setting up your ideal workspace so you get through the day pain-free.

Your Chair

According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, a good ergonomic chair can really help reduce the risk for back pain. Ask your office manager for help finding a chair that includes adjustable lumbar support, armrests, headrests, seat pan depth, and height; a good angle between backrest and seat, so you can sit up straight without leaning forward; a high backrest and headrest; and slip-resistant fabric. When adjusting the height, your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should be at a 90-degree angle. If you can’t get a chair with proper lumbar support, invest in a small pillow or roll up a towel to help your lower back feel better.

Your Desk

Your keyboard should be directly in front of you at elbow height, so you can type with straight wrists. Your monitor should be centered in front of your keyboard and chair. If you spend a lot of time looking at paper or other documents, use a document stand. If you’re on the phone a lot, ask for a headset for your phone. If you have a laptop, use a full station with external keyboard, mouse, and display.

Your Monitor

Eyestrain is another thing to watch out for. In addition to being a problem for your eyes, you may find yourself leaning forward or back a lot. If you’re experiencing glare and can’t get a glare filter, make sure you adjust your entire workstation if you adjust your monitor, so it remains centered. The top of the screen should be at eye level, and the screen itself should be 15 to 30 inches away.

Your Habits

Of course, your workstation can’t fix everything. Make sure not to slump your shoulders or slouch in your chair, which can make you more prone to both pain and injury. And don’t just sit all day. Get up at least once an hour and stretch a part of your body, take a lap around the office, or try one of these microworkouts you can do at your desk. When you exercise outside of work, spend time strengthening your core, as it helps support your back.

Keep a bottle of Advil at your desk to manage your minor pains until you can set up your perfect workstation (or until you remember to pay more attention to your posture). Your new setup won’t fend off that coworker who’s a figurative pain in the neck, but your actual body will feel a lot better.

Get more great health and wellness stories at Shape.com/Strive.