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Computer Ergonomics Problems & Computer Accessories

Posted Jan 24 2009 10:44am

Computer Ergonomics Problems and Computer Accessories Article
This article was just published in ADVANCE magazine for Physical Therapists, as a two part series, I have posted a modifed version of the full 2 part series, as it is long...).

Computer-Related Ergonomic Problems are Onmipresent!
Computer-Related Ergonomic problems can be caused by both work-related and non-work related factors. Computer-related Ergonomics problems are conditions which affect millions of people every single day. These Computer-related Ergonomics problems are only getting worse, as more and more of us use desktop and laptop computers all day, then again at night, we are spending more and more time in front of our computers and we will pay the price if we do not pay attention to our postures and bodies. Therefore these computer-related ergonomic problems are virtually everywhere and they potentially affect virtually everyone!

Common Types of Computer-Related Ergonomic Problems:
The most common types of computer-related ergonomic problems include:
- Cumulative Trauma Disorders of Arm and Hand
- Ergonomics Problems of the Eye
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
-Other Ergonomic Problems: neck pain, back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches.
Typically, cumulative trauma disorders of the hand and wrist make up the most frequently seen ergonomic-related computer injury in the clinics. Conditions often include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sprain, strain, De Quervains, trigger finger and ganglion cysts.

Symptoms of Computer-Related Ergonomic Problems
Below is a list of the most common clinical signs and symptoms of computer-related ergonomic risk factors.
-Pain or aching in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, or back followed by discomfort
-Numbness, tingling or burning sensation in hand or fingers
-Dry, itchy, red or sore eyes/ Ergonomic Eye Problems
-Blurred or double vision
-Tight, sore neck and shoulder muscles
-General fatigue or tiredness
-Reduced grip strength in the hand
-Swelling or stiffness in the hand or wrist
-Reduced range of motion in the hands, wrist, shoulder, neck, or back
-Tension stress headaches and other stress disorders
The primary ergonomics risk factors for Computer-related Ergonomic problems like: Cumulative Trauma Disorder and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include: repetitive motions, poor support, awkward posture, forceful movements and overall poor workplace ergonomics set-up. All of these ergonomic risk factors can simply and easily be reduced or eliminated. Prevention is cost-effective and easy, compared to the alternative of living in pain, high medical costs, therapy or surgery and lost time or lost work efficiency.

The main causes of Computer-Related Ergonomics Problems
The main causes or ergonomic risk factors of computer-related ergonomics problems related specifically to the workstation design or set up. Often time we see very poor ergonomics set up with laptop users due to the inherent inability to adjust the various components of the computer such as the screen, mouse and keyboard. Here is a list of the computer set-up related causes and ergonomic risk factors:
-Awkward and poor posture
-Repetitive motions and tasks
-Forceful movements
-Poor workplace set-up
-Sitting in same posture for continuous long hours
-Lower back and /or leg support is inadequate
-Poor lighting
-Documents and monitor screen not at same angle and plane
-Keyboard and computer mouse not at same angle and plane

How to Solve Your Computer-Related Ergonomics Problems:
Did you know that a computer work-related injury or pain condition can cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to treat? Think of how much you can spend every day if they drink a $5 cup of brand name coffee once each day... that is about $150 in just one month!!! Then look at what low-cost office ergonomics solutions you can do to improve your computer posture and productivity while eliminating your pain and fatigue. You will feel so much better.

The human head weighs about 10 pounds?
That is the weight of a bowling ball Additionally, clinical studies show that for every centimeter your head/neck posture is forward and not appropriately over your spine that you increase the work and strain of your neck muscles and ligaments by threefold? No wonder neck and shoulder muscles are tight and tense. No wonder people get headaches. Simple adjustments and awareness of proper computer set up and posture can correct your posture to keep your head in the proper position? Simple, low cost computer accessories and easy adjustments to your desktop or laptop set-up improve your computer or office ergonomics significantly.
Using " Office Ergonomic Guidelines" to Optimize Your Computer Set-up:
The correct placement of your computer monitor and computer keyboard can reduce eye, arm, back, shoulder and neck fatigue. Improper posture caused by an inadequate support or posture / body positioning or awkward hand and computer keyboard positions can result in early day fatigue, even pain. Long periods of repetitive work can lead to hand, neck, and back pain and ultimately injury. Ergonomics is the applied science focused on human use. Office Ergonomics is applying the principles of work design and human use to the office and computer setting. Office Ergonomics provides an array of information critical to the design and proper use of office equipment, furniture and computer accessories.

Apply Industry-Based Office Ergonomic Guidelines to Immediately Improve Your Computer Set-Up!

Solving computer-related ergonomic problems is all about postural education, postural adjustment and the re-arrangement of the computer set-up to be within ergonomic guidelines, visit our " Office Ergonomic Guidelines" page and " Seating Ergonomic Guidelines", " Keyboard Tray Position Ergonomic Guidelines", " Ergonomic Keyboard Design Guidelines", " Computer Monitor Ergonomic Guidelines" and " Computer Lighting Ergonomic Guidelines" for specific industry based Ergonomic Guidelines, each page also has a checklist so that you can evaluate your own computer set-up. General information is posted below, please see the specific guideline for full detailed list and checklist.
Adjust the height of your chair so your upper thighs are parallel to the floor. Adjust the back support so your back is firmly supported and angled slightly backward while your feet are fully supported on the floor or a footrest. Read the full detailed list of Ergonomic Seating Guidelines and take the checklist to ensure your seating is up to par.
The height for your computer keyboard and computer mouse should be so that your hands, wrists and forearms are in the same plane, which means the same level. Use an ergonomic/adjustable keyboard tray to make sure your wrists and hands are level with your elbows so that your arms are comfortably at your sides. Some ergonomic experts suggest a negative tilt it best, this means to position your computer keyboard so that there is about a 1 to 2 inch decline, where the front of your computer keyboard is higher than the back of your computer keyboard; another reason why using adjustable keyboard trays are so important. Your shoulders should be relaxed; your elbows should be near your body and with a 90 degree angle between your shoulders and hands.

Read the full detailed list of " Keyboard Position Ergonomic Guidelines" and take our checklist so that you can improve your ergonomic computer set-up immediately. Read more about " Ergonomic Keyboard Design Guidelines".
There are a lot of cheap computer mouses out there. Clinically I have treated people for years dealing with unnecessary hand, wrist and arm pain and cumulative trauma disorders due to poor computer mouse design. Always uses a mouse that fits your hand!! Use a right handed mouse if you are right handed and use a left handed mouse if you are left handed. Use a multisize computer mouse if you have a large or small hand. You should use a computer mouse that promote neutral joint positions, such as the power grip position. Your mouse should fit your hand, see our computer mouse sizing chart to ensure the proper fit. Lastly, support the palms and wrists gently while typing, but avoid too much direct contact on the wrists, gel wrist rests are recommended as they reduce the direct pressure placed on the wrist while typing.


Often time’s computer users hide their computer behind glare screens and are slouched over their work, limiting the ceiling or window lighting from adequately illuminating their workstation. Hence, people often lean closer to their documents and computer monitors to see them... poor posture, strain, computer-related eye problems: eye-fatigue/strain, eye redness and dryness, headaches, cumulative trauma disorders and overall exhaustion occur. The solution -- Task Lighting --is often overlooked and so simple and cost effective (not to mention environmentally and cost efficient!)

Visit " Lighting Ergonomic Guidelines" page for details on required illumination, measurements and checklist to evaluate your computer set-up.
The top of the computer monitor screen should be even with your forehead and directly in front of you. Your head weighs about 10 pounds, or the weight of a bowling ball. So it is essential to make sure you are not looking up or down at your computer monitor. A monitor arm provides an effective solution to ensure proper posture. A good rule of thumb is an arms length distance. Your eyes should look slightly downward, approximately 15º to 30º. If you use bifocals, lower the monitor below eye level and turn the screen upward, tilt the screen back 30º to 45º. Read more on " Monitor Ergonomic Guidelines" and use our checklist to make sure your computer monitor is positioned optimally to your body.
Use a Head Set:
Never hold the phone between your head and shoulder, this puts excessive strain on your neck and shoulders. If you use the phone frequently, use a headset to reduce the strain on your neck.
You have three primary reaching zones at you computer work station. In order to optimize efficiencies and reduce over reaching and excessive movements and strain, organize your work area as follows: Your Primary reaching zone is for frequent-use items, items such as your keyboard and computer mouse must be in this area. Adjustable keyboard trays with attached mouse platforms are a must-have if you are on the computer most of your work day. Your Secondary reaching zone is for item that you use occasionally, may include: phone, calculator, stapler etc. Your Tertiary reaching zone should have items you use only rarely during your work day. Pictures, stapler, calculator etc.

Read article on " How to Optimize Your Reaching Zones" for more information.
Make sure your documents are at the same plane and similar distance from you as your computer monitor; always use an adjustable document holder, preferably in-line with the computer, this will improve your sitting posture and reduce the tendency to look down or to the side to read a document while typing. The document holder will also significantly reduce eye strain as the document and monitor screen are the same distance and plane or angle, hence this reduces the need for the eye muscles constantly try to readjust.

Take a 3-minute break every 30 minutes:
During your break, breathe deeply from your abdomen. Relax your arms in your lap, and then stand up and stretch your neck and shoulders. Remember that even though computer accessories improve your posturing, even if your workstation is set up properly, you can still experience muscle fatigue from being in the same position too long. Muscles are meant for movement not to hold static positions. It is important to periodically adjust your chair, stretch your muscles, rest your eyes, drink plenty of water and change positions to help avoid fatigue. Be sure to stand and stretch your back, neck, legs and arms periodically.

Read full article and " Office Ergonomic Guidelines" with checklist so that you can evaluate your computer here on " Computer Ergonomics Problems".

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