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Ergonomic Tips For Computer Users

Prolonged use of a computer keyboard and/or mouse can lead to frequent muscle aches and nerve pain unless a few guidelines are followed. You can work more comfortably and safely if you incorporate the following ergonomic tips into your work style:

Posture And Positioning

  • Maintain good posture when working at the keyboard. Utilize a chair with back support.
    Keep your feet supported on the floor or on a footrest when you work to reduce pressure on your lower back
  • Avoid twisting or bending your trunk or neck. Frequently used items should be positioned directly in front of you and angled upward on a copyholder when working.
    Keep your shoulders relaxed with your elbows close to your sides.
  • Avoid resting your elbows on the hard surface or edge of your table. Pads can be used to protect your elbows if necessary.
  • Elbows should be positioned at 100 to 110 degrees when working in order to keep a relaxed position at the keyboard. This could require a slight negative tilt (front of keyboard higher than back) when working in upright positions. If reclined in your chair, the keyboard could be at a positive angle to maintain this relaxed position.
  • Your wrists should be in a neutral or straight position when keying or using a pointing device or calculator. Wrist rests can assist you in maintaining a neutral position when used properly during pauses. Float your arms above the keyboard and wrist rest when keying. Avoid planting your wrists on the table or wrist rest. This can result in bending the wrists either up and down or side to side.
  • Take breaks. These breaks can be brief and should include stretches for optimal results. If possible, take a one or two-minute break every 15 to 20 minutes, or a five-minute break every hour. Every few hours, get up, move around, and do an alternative activity.

Work Technique

  • Reduce keystrokes with the use of macros or software programs allowing "sticky keys." Use scroll locks and keystroke combinations to reduce pointing-device movements.
  • Alternate tasks to make changes in your working position to avoid making the same movements for prolonged periods of time.
  • Keep your fingers and knuckles relaxed when working at the keyboard.
  • Never hold a pen or pencil in your hand when keying.
  • Avoid hitting the keyboard with excessive force. Studies have shown that the average user hits the keyboard with four times the required force when keying.
  • Avoid holding your pointing device tightly. Your hand should be relaxed.
  • Rest your eyes by refocusing on distant objects intermittently when working.

Work Environment

  • Avoid excessive reaching. Your keyboard, pointing device, files and telephone should be within easy reach.
  • Use a keyboard tray to properly position your keyboard and pointing device.
  • Use a copyholder positioned in line with your monitor and keyboard.
  • When writing at the computer, avoid excessive reaching over the keyboard or work materials. A sturdy in-line copyholder can double as a writing surface if appropriately positioned.
  • Position the monitor so that the viewed part of the screen allows you to keep your neck in a neutral or straight position. The monitor should be centered directly in front of you. The top of the computer screen should be slightly below the top of your head, so that you are looking at it with a slightly downward gaze.
  • Position your monitor to eliminate excessive glare or reflections from windows and lighting.
  • Customize your computer by using your software. The screen font, contrast, pointer size, speed, and color can all be adjusted to maximize your comfort and efficiency.

Lifestyle

  • Aerobic exercise will help to sustain strength, improve cardiovascular conditioning, and counteract the strain of sedentary computer use.
  • Routine use of non-prescribed medications or a wrist brace is not recommended. If you begin to develop symptoms, notify your supervisor. Slight changes made early can avoid future complications.