Repetitive Strain Injury Ergonomics

Are you experiencing pain or discomfort while you sit at your computer desk at the office? Proper ergonomics in your workspace may help ease your suffering. Read on to learn more about proper computer workstation placement and tips for alleviating common computer use related ailments.

Body and Computer Hardware Placement

Proper workstation setup is key for ergonomics in the workplace. Follow these placement techniques to ensure proper positioning of your body and computer equipment at your desk.

  • Desk chair. Use a desk chair that has a padded cushion on the seat. Make sure the chair height is adjusted for using the keyboard and mouse. The best way to ensure you have the proper height adjustment is to stand facing the chair and adjust the seat to a height just below your kneecaps. It is important to keep your feet flat on the floor while you are sitting. Do not tuck them under the chair. If your feet do not touch the floor after adjusting the height, add a footrest. Slightly recline the chair and keep your back naturally curved. When working, avoid leaning forward to look at the screen. Use a desk chair with armrests, and rest your elbows on them while typing.
  • Computer monitor. Start by centering your computer monitor. Sit with your back against your chair, and place the monitor at arm’s length from you. Place the monitor at eye level, or 2 to 3 inches below the monitor casing.
  • Computer keyboard. Place your keyboard so that it is parallel to your thighs when your feet are flat on the floor or on your footrest. If you can, use a keyboard tray that points downward. Center the space bar in front of you, and avoid the use of a wrist rest.
  • Computer mouse. Place the computer mouse on the side most comfortable for you. When using the computer mouse, check to make sure your elbow is close to your body, that your arm is relaxed. Try not to use the scroll too often, and don’t let your wrist be the pivot point for your computer mouse. Use your elbow as the pivot point for your computer mouse. Avoid any computer mouse that you have to bend your wrist to use.

Tips for Alleviating Pain

When you sit at your computer desk, you should not be experiencing any pain or discomfort. If you are uncomfortable, review the following tips for specific areas of the body:

  • Wrist. Re-check your keyboard and mouse position according to the placement criteria above. Make sure you are using your mouse with a level hand, and if you use the scroll feature a lot, try to cut down. Pay attention to your elbow as you work. Make sure it is close to your body and that you are using it as the pivot point for your mouse, not your wrist.
  • Elbow. Be sure to rest your elbow on your chair’s armrest while you are typing or doing other tasks.
  • Neck or shoulders. Re-check the positioning of your computer monitor, keyboard and mouse, ensuring that they are the right distance and properly centered. Pay attention to your posture, and make sure you are slightly reclining as you work.
  • Back. Re-check the height adjustment on your desk chair, and ensure that your feet stay flat on the floor. Re-check the position of your mouse, computer monitor and keyboard to ensure that they are centered and a comfortable distance. Try adding back support with a lumbar pillow or pad.

Remember that taking regular breaks from your chair and computer monitor are important. You can take a load off of your back in short breaks by simply leaning back in your chair. You can avoid eyestrain by simply blinking and looking away from your computer monitor frequently. It’s also important to get up from your computer desk to stand and stretch. These ergonomic breaks are not a waste of time. They are critical for your well-being and your work efficiency.

Resources

California Department of Industrial Relations. (1999). Easy ergonomics: A practical approach for improving the workplace.

UCLA Ergonomics. (nd). 4 steps to setting up your computer workstation.