5 Ways To Adjust Your Desk To Reduce Pain

Are you struggling with pain at your desk? Do you have a sore neck, shoulders or suffer headaches?  If you work at a desk then we want you to know the top 5 ways to adjust your desk to reduce pain and get you through your day in comfort.

Many of the patients we see for the first time have not thought much about their desk set up or they just don't know what to do about it. And this has been a big issue we’re seeing at the clinic, especially with so many people now working from home. 

They’ve got headaches, sore neck and shoulders, repetitive strain injuries in their shoulder (tendonitis or bursitis), elbow (eg tennis elbow) or wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome) or they're just feeling so uncomfortable that it's affecting their productivity and work quality. Pain and injuries from working at a desk can be very debilitating and affect more than just work productivity and enjoyment. We often hear reports that these issues overflow to affect them even after they finish work and on weekends, affecting sleep quality, enjoyment of hobbies, sports performance and more.

There are a number of different strategies that you can employ in order to greatly reduce your risk of overuse injury in the office and make for a more comfortable work day. These changes can make a world of difference by reducing the strain on your body and improving your body's function and health.

Watch this video or keep reading...

The 5 key adjustments to your workstation to reduce pain

  1. Get Out Of Your Chair - It Really Is That Bad!
    Create sit and stand options at your desk. Alternate between sitting and standing regularly throughout the day. Standing up will naturally encourage you to move more as you are working and ease the pressure placed on your spine. This extra movement gets your muscles and joints moving which lubricates your joints, increases blood flow and reduces stagnation and inflammation. It also takes the pressure off the lower back and reduces tightening and shortening of the psoas muscle, one of the main hip flexor muscles that is often tight in those people who sit for hours at a time.
  2. Minimise “Mouse Arm” and Rib Strain By Adjusting Your Keyboard & Mouse
    Bring your mouse and keyboard to the edge of the desk, directly in front of you. This will help to keep your elbows beside your body, rather than out in front of you where you can strain your shoulder or ribs and overuse the infamous trapezius muscles, causing headaches, neck pain and tension over the shoulders that patients often describe to us.
  3. Save Your Back By Adjusting Your Chair Height
    Set your chair height (if using a chair). Adjust your chair so that your knees are over your ankles and they’re at or just below hip height. Ideally, your feet should be flat on the floor. Adjust your chair or sitting position so there is a 2 finger-width gap between the back of your knees and the front edge of the chair. If an armrest is used, place just below the height of the elbow when resting at your side.
  4. Save Your Neck By Adjusting Your Desk Height
    Set your desk height (if its adjustable). Given your elbows are beside your body, you can use this as a guide for the desk height. Your desk height is best placed just below your elbows so that when you rest your hands on the desk, they’re slightly lower than the elbows. If your desk height isn’t adjustable, you may need to bring your chair up to the point where your elbows are at desk height. In this case, you may need a foot stool to keep your feet flat and maintain the hip and knee angles as mentioned in point 3 above.
  5. Crush Crane Neck By Adjusting Your Monitor Height
    Adjust your computer monitor height. This is to set your computer monitor height so that your eye line is at the top ⅓ of your computer monitor, placing your neck in a neutral position. Set your monitor 45-61cm from your eyes.  You can use a monitor stand, small set of drawers or a box to raise the height of the monitor.

Working On A Laptop? How To Minimise Your Risk

For those using a laptop, making an adjustment to your monitor means using an external mouse and keyboard and placing your laptop on a laptop stand, a set of drawers, a box or even some books to raise the screen to the ideal height as in point 5 above. Then set up your external keyboard and mouse as in step 2 above.


Stationary Positioning

Place a document holder beside the screen at the same height and distance from your eyes as the monitor. Place items most commonly used closest to your reach.


Tips For a More Comfortable Work Day - Movement Breaks

  • Take regular 5-10 minute breaks and even more frequent 1-2 minute breaks, even if it’s a minor shift in posture or body position. We know this also helps with focus and productivity.
  • Stand up or go for a walk throughout your day. Incorporate walking meetings into your schedule.
  • Do some stretches or mobility exercises each time you leave your desk. Or, throw in a micro-workout, which is one set of a small number of repetitions (5-15) of one exercise. You can do the same exercise at regular intervals over the day, or alternate the exercise over the day. For example, 9am - 10 bodyweight squats, 11am - 10 wall push-ups, 1pm - 10 resistance band rows, 3pm - 10 bodyweight lunges.
  • Change your activity regularly. Break up your tasks for the day into smaller increments to allow you to move between different positions and movements.
  • Adjust your eyes focus. To do this, adjust your focus from your computer screen to a distant object out the window or to the other end of the office. Alternate your focus 3 times between the 2 objects. Do this every 30 mins throughout the day.

Now Start Experimenting

Apply some or all of these tips to get your workstation set up in a way that can support you at your desk. Sometimes it takes some creativity, like using boxes, foot stools or small sets of drawers. The effort is well worth it and your body will thank you for it. There are also many quick, effective and easy exercises on our website in our video library for you to check out to help you stay comfortable at your desk.

For more personalised advice on how to be more comfortable at your desk and minimise the impact that sitting can have to your body, give us a call today.



Written by Dr. Jess Harvey B.Sc. (Anat, Phys), B.Ap.Sci (Comp. Med.), Ma Osteo., Registered Osteopath and Director of Head 2 Toe Health.

We provide Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Massage, Life Coaching and Counselling in Springwood (Brisbane) and Oxenford (Gold Coast). "We aim to get you as well as possible, as fast as possible, permanently." We believe in a thorough approach to restoring and maintaining health and address many aspects of our lifestyles that can contribute to pain, stiffness, dis-ease and disease. For any further information, please contact us on info@head2toehealth.com.au or 07) 3208 8308.

This information is intended as a general guide only and is not specific for any particular condition or situation. This information is for educational purposes only. Please seek specific advice for your individual circumstances.