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The Physio Blog

Ergonomic advice during pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a very exciting time for mother-to-be, and it is still very important to maintain correct ergonomic adjustments for women during this phase of their lives. This advice can be tailored for mother-to-be working in an office setting, working from home or mobile workers where they may require sitting on a task chair and working from a monitor or laptop.

During second and third trimester, there are changes to the woman’s body to accommodate for the growing baby. During this phase it is important to readjust the ergonomic task chair, desk to chair position and any other accessory equipment such as keyboard and mouse position to maintain the optimal posture.

Firstly, when looking at the task chair, it is important to adjust the chair in relation to the desk height. The user’s arms should rest parallel to the desk height, therefore the chair height required to be raised accordingly. Having the chair too low, can cause undesired shoulder and neck hitching, and having the chair too high can cause excessive pressure on wrists during typing – both positions are not correct. Feet also need to be supported either by the floor, or footrest to maintain the correct height.

Next step, to observe the backrest and seat pan angle. During pregnancy as the baby is growing, the mother to be requires extra hip angle when sitting to avoid compressing the baby when sitting. It is important to consider and adjust the backrest angle to a 100 degree recline angle to maintain a neutral spine posture and angle the seat pan in to a gentle anterior tilt to facilitate a greater hip angle. If the chair has an inbuilt lumbar support on the backrest, adjust the backrest height to fit snug along the user’s lower back.

It is also important to roll the chair in close to the desk to avoid the user slouching forward to view screen or reach keyboard and mouse. If there are arm rests, these can be lowered to allow the user to roll chair closer. Fingers should be resting on keyboard, wrists and half the forearm length should be resting on desk. The ideal keyboard position can be maintained at 20cm away from the edge of the desk with the mouse positioned close to the desk. With these positions placed, this will minimise the chances of slouching forward and overreaching.

Few more important notes are for any mother-to-be are, adjust your desk or home environment incorporating these tips above, maintain frequent standing and walking break every 20-30 minutes, talk to your colleague instead of emailing them, avoid eating lunch at your desk and drink plenty of water.

Unsure about ergonomics, posture and how your body is changing during pregnancy? Contact us. Our friendly and skilled West Ryde Physios are happy to help - (02) 9809 3854.

How to set up your desk

When we think about our work environment, there are a few pieces of equipment that we cannot live without. These can be our trusty laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse and potentially any document risers.

The desk equipment needs to be arranged in a way that it is optimum for the frequency of how much we use a piece of equipment to where it should be located. Here are some handy tips to allow the equipment to be positioned correctly and to also minimise any risk of over- reaching or undesired stress on our body.

The desk can be zoned in to;

  1. Primary zone; the items that we frequently use and most of the work are is.

  2. Secondary zone; the items that that are sometimes used and occasional work is required.

  3. Tertiary zone; items that are seldom or rarely used.

In the primary zone; the equipment that should reside in these areas are; our laptop, or workstation keyboard, mouse or any note pads. As these are frequently used items they need to be in close reach. Keyboard can be positioned approximately 20 cm away from the edge of the desk and mouse right by its side.

Secondary zone; is an area where items such as monitors, document risers, loose pieces of paper files or other relevant equipment.

Tertiary zone; is an area where the rarely used items can reside such as large files and archived documents.

Correctly positioning equipment at your desk can minimise any risk of over-reaching or strain on your body.

The rising epidemic of Tech Neck Syndrome

The term “Tech Neck” was first coined a few years ago to be an umbrella definition for any pain or soreness that can arise from prolonged forward neck position with screen usage.

With prolonged screen usage; on a monitor, laptop or mobile phone the current evidence has highlighted that the prevalence of Tech Neck symptoms are staggering up. In a recent systematic review published on the Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR) 2017, highlights that 79% of the population between the ages 18-44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time, with only 2 hour of their walking day spend without their cell on hand (Neupane, Iftikhiar, Mathew 2017).

Furthermore, to supplement our growing dependence on screen usage, evidence also suggests there is an almost three time more chance of developing neck pain with a forward neck posture. Unfortunately, this can also add to the rise of discomfort and stress along the posterior neck and anterior check muscles.

Ways to minimise Tech Neck Syndrome

  • Position desk monitor and laptop screen to a correct height where your eye line is falling to the top third of the screen. Laptop risers or monitor blocks can be very important in facilitating the correct height.

  • Maintain screens; monitor and laptop, an arm’s reach away. Avoid having the screen too far which could contribute to the user slouching in a forward neck posture to view screen.

  • Annually check prescription glasses to renew when required.

  • Avoid prolonged sitting, and stand to take a one minute walking break every 30-60 minutes.

  • When using a mobile phone, bend elbow, raise hand holding the phone to eyelevel to maintain a neutral neck posture.

The most important tip is to avoid viewing the screen for prolonged periods. When you are on the train raise your head up away from the screen and look up at every station. Micro breaks, every few minutes to change your neck posture are vital to reduce the discomfort in your neck.

Concerned that tech neck is affecting you? Contact us. Our friendly and skilled West Ryde Physios are happy to help - (02) 9809 3854.

Will a standing desk help my lower back pain?

You may have heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking” that had been present on media a few years ago. This is not entirely true however it does highlight a very important point that prolonged sitting throughout and a sedentary environment can unfortunately increase the statistics on lifestyle diseases including spinal and back pain.

There have been a few short term initiatives that have been rolled in to the corporate setting to allow staff to have greater movement in their working day. Some of the ideas that have been rolled in area alarms or bells that are rung every hour to allow all staff to stand and take a walking break, exercise and stretching posters stuck on the wall and incorporation of standing desks.

Recent evidence suggests that taking a routine 1-2 minute walking break every 20-30 minutes can have a positive effect in minimising the risk of every-day office niggles. Standing desks can allow changes in posture throughout the day from standing and sitting however standing greater than 60 minutes can have nasty negatives on our circularity system (calf cramping and varicose veins) and lower back.

We are not designed to statically sit or statically stand, and therefore taking routine walking break few times an hour can be healthy for our body.

Professor Alan Hedge from Cornell University has surmised a great infographic that we can implement in our working day, indicating that with in a 30 minute window we should be sitting for no more than 20 minutes and keeping the last 10 minutes standing or walking. This is a great guideline that we can implement or simply taking a walking break of 1-2 minutes every 20-30 minutes can still have a positive outcome and be less disruptive to your work.


Movement is key. Stand and take routine walking breaks few times an hour for 1-2 minutes to help you incorporate more movement in your working day.

About the author: Ozlem Davic is a physio at West Ryde Physiotherapy in Sydney. She is passionate about the benefits of sport and fitness and has clinical experience in sports injuries rehabilitation. She has a keen interest in the human and environmental elements of physiotherapy problems, including ergonomics, and advocates taking a preventative role in minimising daily office or work injuries.