Some generally accepted guidelines for posture and furniture at computer workstations are, in reality myths. If rigidly follwowed, these misconceptions can lead to uncomfortable and costly mistakes.
Myth: Correct posture at the computer eliminates discomfort and reduces injuries.
Reality: "Picture-perfect" posture can be extremely fatiguing, especially when held for long periods of time. When sitting, the full force of gravity is carried by the upper body and can lead to fatigue, muscle strain, or joint pain. Prolonged, static postures reduce blood flow and deprive muscles of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Dynamic postures increase blood flow and allow for muscles to have small rest breaks when you work. Change your position frequently, and alternate sitting and standing. For instance, find an elevated worksurface where you can stand and do your paperwork from time to time.
Myth: Computer operators should sit upright at the computer.
Reality: If given a choice, four out of five workers prefer to sit slightly reclined. A reclined posture is less fatiguing and easier to maintain than sitting erect. Sitting slightly reclined also reduces pressure on the discs in your lower back. However, there is a difference between being slightly reclined, and slumping. See how much better the back is supported in Figure 1 below?
Figure 1 Figure 2
Don't be hurt by workstation myths. Make sure your furniture and chair are adequate for your needs and use good work habits. Change postures and take frequent short breaks throughout the day.
Adapted from Eileen Vollowitz PT, Health by Design, Novato, California