Take some steps to stay healthy at your desk

FARGO - Some of us spend a lot of time at a desk. A few months ago I realized that my workspace was causing me some pain. My wrists hurt, as did my forearms, back and neck by the end of the day.

FARGO - Some of us spend a lot of time at a desk. A few months ago I realized that my workspace was causing me some pain. My wrists hurt, as did my forearms, back and neck by the end of the day.

We contacted an ergonomic specialist to assess my work space. From it, I learned that several things were wrong. If we didn't take some action, I might have some long-lasting health problems.

Some people need surgery or have chronic pain as a result of repeated motions at work.

I was supposed to be sitting with my back against the chair. I don't think I ever used the back of my chair at work. After playing the piano since elementary school, I was well-trained to sit up straight and not slouch or lean backward.

Unfortunately, correct piano posture is not equated with good posture at your desk.


When you sit in your chair at a computer, your knees should be parallel with your hips. Despite heroic attempts to adjust my old chair, the specialist discovered that my chair and I just were not compatible. I needed a new chair.

My desk didn't allow the new chair to fit close enough to allow me to have my forearms parallel with the desktop. We decided I needed a new top for my modular desk.

I had the phone on the wrong side of the desk, so that was an easy fix. I had to get used to answering the phone with my left hand, though.

I was using a tray to hold my keyboard and mouse, but the tray was problematic for my wrists. We decided I should stop using the keyboard tray. My computer mouse was too large for my hand and my wrist was "slouching" as I used my computer. I needed a new mouse, too.

By the way, an equipment salesperson was not in charge of assessing my space. In the end, the cost of these workplace items was far lower than medical costs would have been.

In the meantime, I have had to retrain myself on how to sit at my desk, but I am enjoying a properly adjusted workspace. Now that my aches are gone, I think I'm more productive as a result.

Besides working, many people engage in "desktop dining." As a result, some other safety rules come into play. Germs can find their way from surface to surface readily as you shake someone's hand or grab a doorknob. If you snack on some crackers without washing your hands, you may be getting some extra "treats."

According to University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba, a desktop may be 400 times dirtier than a toilet. For convenience, consider using disinfecting wipes to clean your work area. Don't forget to wipe your phone, computer mouse and keyboard.


Wash your hands before you eat at your desk. If hand washing is not possible, use a hand sanitizer with at least

60 percent alcohol.

If you're wondering how to assess your own home or work desk, the Mayo Clinic has an excellent slide show that walks you through the basics of ergonomics. You can find it at .

Here's a tasty, nutritious and nonperishable snack courtesy of the Kansas State University Extension Service.

Wheat Banana Bread

1/3 cup margarine, melted

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten


3 bananas, mashed

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/3 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Using an electric mixer, beat the margarine, sugar, eggs and banana until smooth. Sift (or mix) together the all-purpose flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in the whole-wheat flour and blend. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the boiling water to the banana mixture. Pour into a well-greased loaf pan. Bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes one loaf of about 16 slices. A serving has 150 calories, 4.5 grams (g) of fat, 26 g of carbohydrate and 2 g of fiber.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

What To Read Next
Get Local