You probably don't pay a lot of attention to "ergonomics" - the physical
relationship between you and your office equipment. But if you ignore the basics, you're not only risking
discomfort... you're also risking decreased productivity.
It's hard to imagine getting along without
computers today. Many of us spend hours at the keyboard - at home and at work. A computer allows us to do
most of our work sitting in one place for extended periods of time.
Muscles, tendons and joints put up with it
for a while, then they give us feedback in the form of stiffness or in the form of aches and pains. This can
happen in our arms, wrists, shoulders or back.
Discomfort may start as fatigue, mild
soreness or numbness. It can develop into chronic pain that doesn't go away and when it finally does it
flares up more quickly and acutely.
If you suffer such discomfort, it is probably because (1) blood
circulation in your muscles is poor while you're working and (2) you are holding stressful body positions for
long periods of time.
Muscles are made for moving! Body movement
circulates important oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue. Strong muscles can be tensed and held without
movement, for example when arm wrestling, but if "static" muscle contraction continues for very long, a
substance called lactic acid is produced in muscle tissue, causing pain.
This can happen over long periods of time
when you ask your muscles to "hold you up" in your chair; "hold your head erect;" and hold your hands
"suspended" over the keyboard or the mouse.
A lack of active movement and healthy blood
circulation often leads to muscle fatigue. It is particularly harmful if your arm must reach out from your
body for long periods of time, to manipulate the mouse.
What to do about the problem? Move! Stretch!
Take breaks! Stretch again! Keep blood circulating through the chain of muscles in your upper body. Stretch!
Shoulders and upper back seem particularly vulnerable, so shrug, roll, and move them around often. Do this
before your body starts shouting at you!
Put your joints in "neutral!" If the wrist
is not maintained in a "neutral" position during prolonged computer use, operators may suffer maladies such
as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Neutral, in this case, means the wrist must
not be bent up or down, to one side or the other, while fingering the keys or using the mouse. In very simple
terms, a bent wrist can "pinch" nerves in the wrist over time, causing nerve damage and chronic pain.
"Neutral" also applies to other parts of the body, which should be kept in the least stressful working
position-with minimal effort needed to hold them there.
What to do about work position problems?
Raise, lower or re-position your keyboard, to keep your wrist in a neutral position and your elbows
positioned close to your body. Obtain one of
the many hand or wrist supports that help achieve the same goal.
Locate the mouse in close proximity to the
keyboard, so you won't have to reach out, or arrange your work area so your working forearm rests on the
surface of the desk. Raise the level of the monitor so your head rests squarely on your shoulders, and your
neck and upper back muscles won't strain to hold it erect.
are four easy ways to improve your ergonomics.
EYES: Should be 24 to 36 inches from the monitor screen. The top of your
monitor should be below or at eye-level.
FEET: Should be on a footrest or planted firmly on the
SITTING: To reduce vertebrae pressure and minimize lower back pain, sit in a
slightly reclined position in your chair. Making this work may mean using a cordless keyboard or one with a
DESK: Most desktops are 28 to 30 inches above the floor. This is too high
for computer work, so you'll need to lower your keyboard and mouse. It's easy to install an adjustable
keyboard and mouse tray on the underside of your desk. The keyboard should be at a negative tilt, with the
front edge slightly lower than the rear.