It’s the rare computer worker who doesn’t experience upper body pain issues at least some of the time. OSHA estimates approximately 20% of workers are experiencing upper body repetitive stress issues. Here are some of the triggers and possible solutions.
Problem #1 – Where are your keyboard and mouse located? Are you reaching for them? If your keyboard and mouse are on your desk, you are stressing your shoulders and upper back. In addition, you may be compressing your median and ulnar nerves and restricting blood flow to your hands. If your wrist is pressing on the desk edge you are compressing the carpal tunnel area.
The solution – Either adjust your desk height so you can pull your body in close to your keyboard or add an articulating keyboard tray that lets you pull your keyboard and mouse into your lap and close to your body.
Problem #2 – Your posture. How do you sit? Are you perched on the edge of your chair or slumped over? Your chair may be the problem. You should be sitting upright with your back full supported by your chair.
The solution - A good ergonomic chair is scaled to fit your body (one size does not fit all, see our article Selecting the Best Ergonomic Office Chair for You) and allows you to sit comfortably with your back and arms properly supported.
Problem #3 – Where is your monitor? Are you looking down, up or straining your neck forward or back to see? Any of these positions are likely straining your neck.
The solution – The ideal position for your monitor is about arm’s length away from you, and the center of the screen should be at about a 50° angle below your eyes. For more detailed information, check out this article on how to place your monitor in the healthiest position.
Problem #4 – Are you using a laptop computer? If you’ve read 1, 2 and 3 above, then explaining why a laptop is an ergonomic nightmare is simple. You can’t get the screen and keyboard where they need to be at the same time. So you hunch over or reach up. Both are very problematic.
The solution – There’s actually more than one solution to this one. The easy one is to use a laptop stand, or laptop arm to elevate your screen and add an external keyboard and mouse. If you’re at a desk, you’ll probably still want to use a keyboard tray to get your tools where they are most comfortable. The second way to resolve this is to use the laptop keyboard with an external monitor. The drawback to this approach is you lose the ability to view your laptop screen.
The coolest solution – Get a double arm that holds an external monitor and your laptop. They you get the visual real estate of two screens and the health benefits of an external keyboard and mouse. This is my desk and I use a sit/stand keyboard tray so I can sit or stand during the work day which is great for my bad back.
In summary, if you’re hurting, it’s time to make the changes you need to be more comfortable. Have you tried one of these solutions? Did you do something different? Tell us your story.