Frequently using a computer may cause ergonomics issues, warns the Rosemont, IL-based American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Repetitive movements, forceful exertions and awkward postures – many of which are required for extended work on a computer – can lead to nerve, tendon, ligament or muscle damage.
Symptoms of ergonomics issues can include aches or persistent pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, back, thighs or lower legs, according to AAOS. Correct posture and a properly designed workstation can help alleviate such problems.
A chair that easily adjusts for height and tilt is a good choice for workers. AAOS suggests workers sit back in the chair with feet resting on the ground or on a footrest, if needed. Thighs should be horizontal at about the same level as the hips. Armrests should be adjusted so elbows are positioned near the waist.
Chairs should have a padded seat with a pan at least 1 inch wider than the worker’s hip and thighs. The seat should slope down slightly and allow space between the seat cushion and the back of the knees. To ensure chairs are stable, the base should have at least five points, preferably on wheels.
People generally are most comfortable when the height of their desk is at elbow level when sitting. The height of the work surface holding the keyboard or mouse should be about 1 to 2 inches above the thighs. The keyboard should be centered in front of the body. To maintain a correct posture at the computer, workers should keep elbows at an open angle, with wrists straight and arms nearly perpendicular to the floor.
Experts recommend monitors be centered directly in front of workers – one arm’s length (or about 20-26 inches) away to ensure proper positioning of the head and neck. The viewing screen should be at eye level to avoid straining the neck by looking up or down.
Once the workstation is properly arranged, workers should strive to maintain good posture to prevent strain:
- Maintain proper alignment by keeping ears in line with the tops of shoulders, and shoulders in line with the hips.
- Upper arms should hang relaxed and close to the body to prevent shoulder strain.
- Hands should be in a straight line with the lower arms to prevent wrist strain.
- Keep fingers relaxed on the keyboard and avoid pounding keys with unnecessary force.
- Grip the mouse gently and avoid holding anything else in your hands, such as a pen, as you type or use the mouse.