5 ways to make your desk job less painful

Author profile picture

@CodingJoeJoseph Nielsen

If your job is a pain in the ass then I might not be able to help. But if your job is a pain in the neck then please continue.

If you’ve got constant back or neck pain, how you sit could be a factor. Use the following tips to evaluate your posture.

Chicken arms are for dancing, not for working

You’ve got two bones in your forearm, the radius and ulna. When you angle your arms inwards as you type, those bones cross, making an X over your nerves.

Typing with chicken arms can cause nerve pain in your elbows. When your arms are angled in parallel, the radius and ulna bones are parallel. When your forearms are at an inward angle, the radius and ulna crossover creating stress on the nerves. X marks the spot of that sharp pain.

This is an easy posture to take, especially when your primary computer is a laptop. Getting an external keyboard and mouse for your laptop may be the best solution.

Lay back… I got my mind on my muscles and my muscles on my mind

Slouching back in your chair can lead to chronic lower back pain. Elevating your arms for extended periods can also lead to other repetitive stress injuries, like a shoulder pain called bursitis.

To understand why your lower back would be hurt by this posture, try this small exercise. Sit slouched back. Maybe keep your arms short instead of extended and make raptor noises.

Now switch from your slouched position to pretending like your body is a rag doll (a doll from before the time of plastic.) Did your lower back fall down a bit? Any part of your body that moved, is a part of the body where the muscles are having to constantly flex in order to maintain your upright posture.

It may not seem like a CrossFit exercise but you’re still using the muscles. Sitting incorrectly all day causes harmful stress. Which reminds me of one time where I attended a webinar while jogging. I tried to hold up my phone the whole time in the selfie position. Yeah, that was an unnecessarily good shoulder workout.

The Hunchback of Cubicle 104-D

Apply the ragdoll test to this scenario as well. If you become a ragdoll, the parts of your body that move the most are the ones doing the most work.

When you hunch over or look down at your monitor, it can cause neck and upper back pain. Looking down at your phone while holding your phone at waste level can also cause painful headaches.

I once went for a certification test where the test supervisor was extremely agitated. He was berating everyone that showed up late as lazy — and by “everyone” I mean me.

I noticed by his monitor setup that all his monitors were below eye level. I then took a Sherlock Holmes leap of faith and asked him if he had constant upper back pain. (My other clue was that he kept rubbing his upper back with grimaces of pain.)

He was surprised by my deductive logic. I said I could tell it was from the monitors because they weren’t aligned to his eye level. He was grateful and we remained friends until I left the testing facility.

Be Minecraft, align your body correctly

Your elbows should be at right angles, resting on the top of your arm rests with your shoulders relaxed. Your eyes should be naturally staring at the top half of your monitor.. Your back should be arched so that your head and neck are balanced and relaxed.

The correct posture for working at a desk is to sit upright, back arched, shoulders relaxed and elbows at right angles with hands naturally above the keyboard. Your eye line should align with the top half of your monitor. If you have a laptop, try using a laptop stand with an external keyboard and mouse.

If you are in doubt whether your posture is good, try my ragdoll test. Does your body flop about when you let go or does it stay balanced and relaxed? Don’t forget to take breaks as well. According to one pseudo-science book I’m reading right now, it only takes 5 minutes of exercise to boost your attention and willpower. (So you can have the willpower needed to put up with your shitty desk.)

Tip 5: Buy an EZ-boy recliner for the office or invent a portable office chair

Or why haven’t we gotten Wil Wheaton’s chair from Star Trek Next Generation? Those chairs looked comfortable.

There’s no keyboard wrist rest but don’t forget there’s a holodeck on board

But really, if someone invented a custom molded chair that would allow me to sit on my couch or bed and work while maintaining good back posture, I would buy that.

Or just replace office chairs with recliners and laptop desks. Or get rid of the laptop and replace it with VR visors and hauptic gloves and Oasis software.

If you’ve got office posture tips, please share

If you enjoyed this article then please click the heart to recommend.

If you enjoyed this article then please follow the publication. If you enjoy tech nerd stuff then follow me as well.

This me on Instagram and Twitter

PS: My home office ergonomic accessories

Seat cushion

Lumbar support seat attachment

Cheap mouse pad with wrist rest

Keyboard wrist rest

Wireless mouse and keyboard (I got it for $10 cheaper at a Best Buy store)

Mini portable beach picnic table (If we hadn’t already had this lying around, I would’ve just cut and taped together a cardboard box.)

Nothing fancy, just the cheapest stuff I could find at the time. I no longer use the seat cushion because I found a discarded $200+ office chair on bulk trash pickup day — it only took a hex key, packing tape and a C-clamp to fix it.

PPS: Special thanks to my son for preparing all of the Minecraft art. If you want to download a printable flyer for your office, please click below.


The Noonification banner

Subscribe to get your daily round-up of top tech stories!