As offices graduate from paperwork to computers, CRT screens to flat screens, desktops to laptops, and from thereon to notebooks and tablets, they keep throwing newer challenges to the posture and spine. If not tackled early, they could result in chronic neck, shoulder and lower back problems, says PARAG A. SHASTRY

If you are relaxed, assuming that your chair has solved your posture-related problems, perhaps it is time you took a re-look at the posture, spine and the chair. Parag. A. Shastry, chief ergonomist with Godrej Interio, cautions that not all is well with either of these three if it is a sedentary job, and if the office is constantly upgrading electronically, but not ergonomically.

As offices are graduating from paperwork to computers, CRT screens to flat screens, desktops to laptops, and from thereon to notebooks and tablets, they keep throwing newer challenges to the posture and spine, and if not tackled early, they could result in chronic neck, shoulder and lower back-related problems, Mr. Shastry affirms.

“Out of the 29 chief executive officers I worked with, 12 went back to their laptops after being informed about the perils of using a Tablet. People adapt to technology without thinking much about the consequences. I advise strictly against making the Tablet a primary tool to work on. One can make a desktop a primary tool, and use tablet when on the move,” he says.

Those using a Tablet upright on a stand are better off than others who have to constantly keep their head bent to work on the gadget laid down.

A research carried out at the Harvard School of Public Health has revealed that Tablet users’ heads and necks were in more strained positions than of the users of desktops or notebooks, which eventually resulted in neck and back pains.

In another study carried out as part of the Wellness@Work initiative by Godrej Interio, the employees were found sitting on the edge of the chair to be able to reach their workstation, hardly ever resting their back against their ‘ergonomically designed’ chairs. The workstations were either flat-screen monitors or laptops with visibility compromised. Though they have the option of magnifying the screen for better visibility, the employees rather chose to move forward in their chairs.

“When the spine is kept straight without support for a long time, obviously, the most strained part would be the lower back. No wonder then that most of the employees suffered from lumbar pain,” Mr. Sharma says.

One more habit that results in pain is the positioning of legs knee down. Most prefer keeping their feet tucked beneath the chair, resulting in constrained blood supply downwards. This too will result in leg and lower back pain eventually.

However, keeping legs straight gets at odds with maintaining eye-level with the monitor, especially when using a laptop or smaller device. As one lowers the chair’s height, one feels the need to bend the legs behind.

Neck bent while on work and improper monitor height are the possible causes of neck, shoulder and low back pain, Mr. Sharma says. Monitors kept at oblique angles vis-à-vis the keyboard, typing with no elbow support, and mouse kept at a different level than the keyboard are all instances of ergonomically uninformed work positions resulting in posture problems, great discomfort, and chronic Muscular Skeletal Disorders. Mr. Sharma traces the whole problem down to archaic office furniture not keeping pace with the technological upgrade at the work place.

A chair should ideally have pneumatic seat height adjustment, with adjustable lumbar and armrest, he advises, and claims that an ergonomically improved office integrating the furniture used with the primary working tool (computer), will result in 15 percent increase in overall productivity.

Cluttering on one’s desk and around the work place, too, should be avoided as it causes stress and reduces the maneuverability of hands.

“On any day when I’m not moving around, I always prefer to work on a desktop. It gives larger space for the hands to move around, and does not compel me to bring my self-crouching before the computer,” Mr.Sharma concludes.