Thursday, December 6, 2012

Computer Back Pain

I stopped my computer desk back pain by applying these elements, so I am summarizing them for my own future use as well as yours.  Sorry there are no pretty diagrams. The original article is here: (synopsis) 

John J. Triano, DC, PhD Doctor Triano is a chiropractor and Co-Director of Conservative Medicine at the Texas Back Institute.
He is on the staff at the Texas College of Chiropractic and the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College and serves on the Scientific Committee of the World Federation of Chiropractic. Doctor Triano was the 1998 Physician of the Year, American Board of Chiropractic Rehabilitation. He holds a Ph.D. in Spine Biomechanics from the University of Michigan, a Masters in Physiology from Wester College in St. Louis, and a B.S. and D.C. from Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis.


  1. Elbow measure First, begin by sitting comfortably as close as possible to your desk so that your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface (e.g. desktop, computer keyboard). If your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust your office chair height either up or down.
  2. Thigh measure Check that you can easily slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the office chair. If it is too tight, you need to prop your feet up with an adjustable footrest. If you are unusually tall and there is more than a finger width between your thigh and the chair, you need to raise the desk/work surface so that you can raise the height of your office chair.
  3. Calf measure With your bottom against the chair back, try to pass your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of your office chair. If you can’t do that easily, then the office chair is too deep. You will need to adjust the backrest forward, insert a low back support (such as a lumbar support cushion, a pillow or rolled up towel), or get a new office chair.
  4. Low back support Your bottom should be pressed against the back of your chair, and there should be a cushion that causes your lower back to arch slightly so that you don’t slump forward or slouch down in the chair as you tire. This low back support in the office chair is essential to minimize the load (strain) on your back. Never slump or slouch in the office chair, as that places extra stress on the structures in the low back, and in particular on the lumbar discs.
  5. Resting eye level Close your eyes while sitting comfortably with your head facing forward. Slowly open your eyes. Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it to reduce neck strain.
  6. Armrest Adjust the armrest of the office chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. Use of an armrest on your office chair is important to take some of the strain off your neck and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair.
My story:

October 21, 2009 hired Dec 10, 1999. Same chair since hire. Unknown chair broken (plastic knob handle on back adjustment). Back always too far back. 43 years old. Recent back pain, with alternating slump and hunch in chair all day. I decided to investigate proper computer chair posture. Fixed chair with washers and a bolt from True Value Hardware next door. Monitor way too high. Removed its foot. Still too high. Raised chair. Closed eyes and visualized a tree or a cloud. Brief open showed good chair/monitor match. Keyboard on shelf too low. Moved keyboard and mouse to table top. Feet too low. Got case of pop. Shelf obstructs knees. Removed keyboard shelf and put it on floor as a footrest. No arm rest. Triano says it's important.

2013 update:

I am thin enough that when I sit close to the table or desk, my arms are fully supported by the table or desk.  Therefore I do better without chair arm rests.  I place the keyboard about 9" from the edge of the table.

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