For many of us, sitting for extended periods of time glaring at a computer screen is an integral part of our daily routine. Yet little do we recognize how significantly the design and arrangement of our computer workstation equipment impacts our health. Improper computer ergonomics is a leading cause of neck and back pain, shoulder fatigue, carpal tunnel, and eye strain. The good news is that these health risks can be prevented with a few simple and inexpensive adjustments to your computer workstation.
The following are common ergonomic mistakes that can contribute to musculoskeletal pain and overall working discomfort.
Ensuring proper placement of the monitor can help prevent the development of eye strain, neck pain, and shoulder fatigue and improve sitting posture.
Awkward hand movements associated with improper positioning of the keyboard can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and pain in the forearms, wrists, and hands. Repetitive movements in such positions put major strain upon the soft tissues.
"Ergonomic" keyboards, also known as "split keyboards," can actually reduce productivity and be harmful for non-10-fingered-trained-touch-typists. Vertical hand posture (your wrists straight rather than tilted up) is probably more important for longterm use than the ulnar deviation that is partially corrected with split keyboards. Recent studies "do not support the use of split keyboards over standard flat keyboards to reduce discomfort in the workplace. Further research is needed to evaluate if subgroups of keyboard users mightbenefit." (Work. 2013 Nov 27)
Wrist rests are declining in popularity, but research studies haven't demonstrated substantial benefits for wrist rests. Indeed, a wrist rest can actually increase pressure inside the carpal tunnel by compressing the undersurface of the wrist. Particularly, one should avoid soft and squishy wrist rests because these will contour to your wrist, restrict the freedom of movement of your hands, and encourage more lateral deviation during typing. Your hands must be able to glide above the surface of a wrist rest during typing, don't lock them in place on the rest while you type.
Poor lighting can cause eye strain, burning and itchy eyes, and blurred vision. Glare resulting from improper placement of the light source can exacerbate these symptoms.
Eye strain is perhaps the most common ergonomic problem associated with frequent computer use. Symptoms of eye strain can range from burning, itchy eyes to more systemic signs such as headaches and increased sensitivity to light. You can prevent eye strain using the following tips.
Although it may seem relaxing, sitting actually puts significant stress on the back. Blood pooling in the legs can also pose health risks for users prone to clotting abnormalities.
When we consider what it means to be "healthy", we typically think of following a good diet and exercise regimen. However, in this day and age, it is equally important to remember to be "ergonomically" healthy.
For more information on how to do so, check out the following websites:
"Computer Workstation Ergonomics". Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/od/ohs/Ergonomics/compergo.htm. Accessed May 10, 2008.
"Computer Workstation Ergonomics." Yale University. Available at http://www.yale.edu/ergo/cw.htm. Accessed May 10, 2008.
"Computer Workstations". U.S. Department of Labor, OHSA. Available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/. Accessed May 10, 2008.
"Easy Ergonomics for Desktop Computer Users." California Department of Industrial Relations. Available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/computerergo.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2008.
"Ergonomics for Computer Workstations." National Institutes of Health, Division of Occupational Health and Safety. Available at http://dohs.ors.od.nih.gov/ergo_computers.htm. Accessed May 10, 2008.
Authored by: Hall Health Center Peer Health Educators
Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Sports Medicine Clinic staff, February 2014