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What criteria should one use to determine the optimal distance and height of the monitor on his or her desk, to prevent chronical back injuries?

I suppose that there are some "formulas" how to determine this. Therefore I provide the measurements:

I have a 24" monitor. I'm 185cm (6'0) tall, my desk is 75cm high and 80cm deep. I would prefer to have my monitor on the wall behind, but it is not necessary.

  • Hey tohecz, welcome to the Workplace. This is kind of tough to answer without specifics. What kind of back pain are you talking about? Lower, Upper, mild, severe, stabbing, throbbing, etc? I tried editing this a little bit. You also didn't tell us how tall you are, how much you weigh, etc as these could factor in as well. the bottom line is we're all built differently, so what's optimal for one person may not be optimal for another, and I'm hoping the edit I made can lead to answers that will help everyone! :) – jmort253 Mar 24 '13 at 17:44
  • Please be sure to clarify with an edit, as that will help others answer this without making too many assumptions or giving you information that you already know. With that said, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with a "correct" position for the monitor, so listing these assumptions and why you think that would be really helpful. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Mar 24 '13 at 17:54
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    @MonicaCellio - What I was hoping for in answers was both: That we'd provide an answer that definitely solves tohecz's problem while also providing some general information that helps everyone. The problem with the lack of specifics is that answerers may miss the actual problem and inadvertently dance around it by making assumptions about the wrong things. I do agree with your point about seeking answers about the general case, and, like you, hope we get answers that address general monitor ergonomics. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Mar 24 '13 at 23:09
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    @jmort253 Thanks! :) I tried to make it sound general yet ask for the specific answer. (And I believe the comments can be purged, feel free to do so.) – yo' Mar 24 '13 at 23:12
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    I added a bounty to this question because I am hoping to get a comprehensive answer to a common question. Many professionals have their monitor at an inadequate position - a canonical answer to really provide a great answer would be a wonderful addition to this site. – enderland Oct 15 '13 at 13:15
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Here is the OSHA (United States Department of Labor) checklist http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/checklist.html and setup guides http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/index.html.

Anecdotally I have found those do NOT always work particularly well as it's too simplistic. People are different.

  1. To properly implement the guidelines you actually need a height adjustable desk. Most US office furniture is too small for me so I either end up with the knees sticking up or the arms angling down. I bought an adjustable height desk at IKEA. Worked great.
  2. A friend of mine got hospitalized because of unspecific but severe circulatory problems. Turned out his armrests were cutting off circulation. Armrests were removed, the problems disappeared and never occurred again. I always use chairs without arm rest (if facility can be properly duped).
  3. I found the biggest bang for the buck is: mix it up. Don't stay too long in any one place. If you are just doing a few quick e-mails, take the laptop to the kitchen, dining room or porch (weather permitting). At work book yourself a conference room for 30 minutes a day just to switch it up a bit. Great are workstations where you can stand for a while. Some people I know use different chairs: e.g., balls or knee chairs (wheels or rocking).

I believe there is no one-size-fits all approach that works for everyone. You can experiment around and record in a journal how your body (back, neck, head, arms) reacts to that. This will help you to zero in on the setup(s) that work best for you personally.

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From ErgoCanada:

...We at ErgoCanada recommend that the top of the viewable screen of your monitor should be at the same approximate height as your eyes. Since most of the time you are focused in the middle of your monitor, you will be looking slightly downward at a 10° - 15° angle, on average. And the monitor should be slightly tilted back (about 10° - 15°) so that when you are looking at the center of the screen your line of sight is perpendicular to the surface of the screen. At the very most the bottom of the viewable area of your monitor should never be more than 25° - 30° below your line of sight.

How far away should my my monitor be relative to my eyes?

This depends on an individuals visual capabilities, a good rule of thumb is you should be a minimum distance equal to the diagonal monitor width (i.e. for a 20" monitor, your eyes should be at least 20" away from the monitor). If you find yourself squinting or leaning forward, and you are at the correct distance, have an eye exam performed. If you are using the appropriate corrective lenses and are still finding difficulty in seeing the screen, consider reducing the resolution on your display.

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    Another option: computer glasses. My regular glasses are terrible for computer use; the distance part doesn't work for small text at an ergonomic distance, and the bifocal is focused much closer. So I had my ophthalmologist write a prescription for a pair focused at "good monitor distance", and as a nice bonus I even got my employer to pay for them as an ADA accommodation. So don't let your glasses dictate your monitor placement if that placement hurts your body; investigate other glasses. – Monica Cellio Mar 25 '13 at 1:21
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I've always found that the "top at eye level" to be not so helpful.

I saw a pricey chiro in London who gave me advice i swear by - eye level should be at the 50-75% mark of the monitor.

In the same way that we don't tilt our heads to look at the top of a painting we're viewing, keeping the eye level roughly in the middle (i prefer on the high end at about 65% monitor heigh) keeps me sane.

I just requisition blocks of (sealed) printer paper from the supply cabinet to get my monitor to the right height.

I don't think your weight/seatheigh/deskheigh play a part in the monitor height. On the other hand, i've read that

for seating you should have a slightly greater than 90 (~>90) degree angle between quads and back, and ~>90 degree angle for forearm to bicep. Also, a ~>90 degree angle for calves to quads.

Feet are meant to be flat on the floor in this scenario, not dangling.

Obviously then you could presumably get a "magic number" that would be the height of a given monitor from the floor for a person, but you'd need to know the lengths of varying body parts.

If your neck is bugging you, have a look at you seat too - a seat can cause issues (maybe you sink into it? Maybe it is slanted to one side? etc) that can cascade up the body to seemingly unrelated body parts (eg neck).

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There's no magic formula that will work for everyone.

Experiment, for at least a few days at a time. Position the monitor where it seems comfortable, and try to live with it for a few days to a week. If that didn't work, then try a new position.

Also be aware that you may need to retry this experiment every few years or so. People's eyes change as they age, comfort changes if you gain or lose weight, etc, etc.

Your body can tell you what works - not a magic formula.

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The topic of interest is ergonomics, and you can also find lots of information scattered around the web about this topic if you look at keyword terms like workplace ergonomics and workplace health and safety. I suggest that this is something you raise with a OHSO (occupational health and safety officer) because it is something that should be customized to individual shapes and sizes, the equipment that you use and the office environment.

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    C'est triste! An answer from a fairly new user recieves 3 downvotes and yet no explanation what is wrong? Micheal, this answer does not answer the question, since it says "how do I position a monitor", which is not written in the answer. You tell me to ask some officer, which is a nice advice, but somehow (for me and obviously for others too) unreachable and not reasonable, because I doubt that millions of people who want/should position their monitors properly have to ask someone how to do it. – yo' Mar 25 '13 at 13:00

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