Typing? Check Your Sitting Posture

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on December 08, 2019

If back and neck pain kicks in after you work at your computer, it might be time to change your posture. Sitting the right way can help you avoid stress on your muscles and joints that can leave you hurting.

Even if you're a lifelong sloucher, a new approach to typing can make a big difference. Take a few moments to learn some easy ways to make your computer keyboard a pain-free zone.

Start With Your Seat

While you sit at a chair, your legs should be level or slightly lower than your seat. Both feet should be flat on the floor. If you're any higher or lower, change your seat height. If you're short and your chair won't adjust to the right height, use a footstool.

Your spine should be in line with the back of your chair, which should be tilted back a little bit, at about a 110-degree angle. If armrests get in the way, remove them or use a different chair.

Check Your Monitor

To avoid straining your neck and eyes, center your computer monitor in front of you, about an arm's length away. The top of the monitor should be around 2 to 3 inches above your eye level. If you wear bifocals, it may be more comfortable to lower your monitor slightly.

Type at the right height. A lot of people place their keyboard directly on their desk, so it's just below chest level. But typing at that height for a long time limits circulation and stresses the joints and nerves in your arms, shoulders, and wrists. That can cause numbness and pain in those areas, as well as your back. It can even lead to long-term problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.

The fix: If it's possible, use a keyboard tray that's placed beneath your desktop. Your keyboard should be slightly below your elbows.

Lighten Up on Laptop Use

Your laptop may be easy to carry around, but if you use it a lot, put it on a desk and type on a separate keyboard and use a mouse.

Using a laptop on your lap for long periods of time causes you to bend your head forward. That puts pressure on the bones called vertebrae at the top of your neck, which can trigger headaches and pain in your back and neck.

If you need to use a laptop on your lap, make sure the monitor is about 6 inches below your gaze. That position helps lessen how much you have to bend your neck to see. You can prop the laptop on a book or tray if your lap is too low.

Another tip: Limit your laptop use to no more than half an hour at a time.

Try Not to Type on Your Phone

It's OK to send an occasional text or email on your phone. But remember, when you type on your phone, you're bending your head and curving your spine. If you do that for more than a few minutes, it will put stress on the delicate vertebrae in your neck.

The solution is simple. Save longer messages for when you can sit down at a computer with a straight spine.

Take a Lot of Breaks

Every 10 minutes, take at least a 20-second break to stop typing and stand and stretch. And every 20 minutes, even if you took a break in between, stand and spend at least 2 minutes away from your computer.

This gets your blood pumping and loosens up tight muscles and stiff joints. It also gives your eyes a chance to readjust, which can prevent computer-related vision problems.

WebMD Medical Reference



UCLA Ergonomics: "4 Steps to Set Up Your Workstation."

University of Michigan: "Computer Ergonomics: How to Protect Yourself from Strain and Pain."

Cornell University Ergonomics Lab: "Ideal Typing Posture."

Karen Jacobs, EdD, clinical professor, department of occupational therapy and rehabilitation counseling, Boston University, Massachusetts.

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