Tips for Computer Users

Repetitive and prolonged use of a computer keyboard and/or mouse can lead to muscle aches and discomfort. Posture and positioning are important. 
Try to incorporate the following tips into your work style to avoid problems.

  • Maintain Good Posture When Typing
  • -Sit all the way back in the chair. You should make full contact the backrest starting at the hips and up through the middle back. Many modern backrests will begin to tapper away as the backrest extends toward the upper back, however you should have continuous support up to the shoulder blades.

    -Support your feet on the floor or on a footrest. The ball of your foot through to the heal should be firmly supported.

    -Knees and hips should be at about the same height. Hips can be slightly above the knees if prefered. 

    -Keep your elbows in a slightly open angle (90° to 100°) with your forearms and wrists straight and level to the keyboard. The keyboard tilt can help you attain the correct arm position. A negative tilt (front of keyboard higher than back) helps when working in an upright sitting posture. If you recline, a positive tilt (front of the keyboard lower than the back) might be necessary.

  • Avoid Overreaching

  • -Keep the mouse and keyboard within close reach.

    -Center the most frequently used section of the keyboard directly in front of you. 

    -Center the monitor in front of you at arm's length distance and position the top third of the monitor at eye level. You should be able to view the screen without turning side to side, or tilting your head up and down.

    -Place documents on a document holder. The document holder should be placed in alignment with your monitor and keyboard. If there is not enough space, place documents on an elevated surface next to your monitor.

  • Use Good Typing Technique

  • -Float your arms above the keyboard and keep your wrist straight and level with typing.

    -If you use a palmrest, use it to rest your palms when pausing, not as a support when typing.

    -Hit the keyboard keys with light force. The average user types harder than necessary.

    -Keep your hands relaxed when using your mouse.

    -Don't hold the mouse with a tight grip or float your fingers above the buttons.

    -Avoid moving the mouse with your thumb or wrist. Movement should originate at your shoulder and elbow.

  • Limit Repetitive Motions

  • Reduce keystrokes with macros and software programs such as voice recognition. Reduce pointing device movement with scroll locks and keystroke combinations.

  • Customize Your Computer Settings

  • The screen font, contrast, pointer size, speed, and color can be adjusted to maximize comfort and efficiency.

  • Reduce Glare and Eye Fatigue

  • -Place your monitor away from bright lights and windows. Use an glare filter when necessary.

    -Take eye breaks and intermittently refocus on distant objects. Try palming your eyes in your hands to reduce eye fatigue.-

  • Take Breaks

  • -Take short breaks every hour by getting up to go to the printer, get water, or speak with a colleague.  

    -Get up and walk around for at least 5 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.

  • Wallets

  • Sitting on your wallet may cause pain, tingling, and numbness in the gluteal muscles. Any pelvic tilt caused by your wallet may also lead to imbalanced muscle strain in your back and hips.

    To relieve pain associated with wallet-related imbalances, carefully stretch your hamstrings and hip muscles. Also consider the Piriformis Stretch to focus on your deeper gluteal muscles.

  • Wrist Splints

  • -Non-prectiptive wrist splints can often be more harmful than helpful. If you begin to develop symptoms, seek help.

    -Early intervention can prevent future problems.

  • Wellness

  • Stay in shape by stretching and exercising regularly. Stretches and exercises can be found on our website.

  • Workstation Myths

  • Some generally accepted guidelines for posture and furniture at computer workstations are, in reality, myths. If rigidly followed, these misconceptions can lead to uncomfortable and costly mistakes.  

    Myth: Correct posture at the computer eliminates discomfort and reduces injuries.

    Reality: "Picture-perfect" posture can be extremely fatiguing, especially when held for long periods of time. When sitting, the full force of gravity is carried by the upper body and can lead to fatigue, muscle strain, or joint pain. Prolonged, static postures reduce blood flow and deprive muscles of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Dynamic postures increase blood flow and allow for muscles to have small rest breaks when you work. Change your position frequently, and alternate between sitting and standing.  Use an elevated worksurface or countertop where you can stand and work from time to time.

    Myth: Computer operators should sit upright at the computer.

    Reality: If given a choice, four out of five workers prefer to sit slightly reclined. A reclined posture is less fatiguing and easier to maintain than sitting erect. Sitting slightly reclined also reduces pressure on the discs in your lower back. However, there is a difference between being slightly reclined, and slumping. 

    Don't be hurt by workstation myths. Make sure your furniture and chair are adequate for your needs and use good work habits. Change postures and take frequent short breaks throughout the day.

    Adapted from Eileen Vollowitz PT, Health by Design, Novato, California

  • Tips for Using Your Pointing Device

  • Web surfing and computer software have resulted in prolonged or repetitive use of pointing devices such as mice and trackballs. Upper extremity, shoulder, and back discomfort can result from improper or prolonged use of these devices. Here are some tips to prevent problems.

    Keep It Close
    Keep your pointing device close to your keyboard to avoid long reach.

    Select a keyboard tray large enough for your keyboard and pointing device.

    Position the pointer at the same level as your keyboard. Avoid reaching over the keyboard to use your mouse.

    Elevate the pointer with a small pad or book to reduce shoulder discomfort.

    Consider using a mousebridge to position your mouse over your 10-key pad, if unused.

    Use Good Posture
    Sit with your back supported against the backrest of your chair. Awkward postures are a major cause of discomfort when using a pointing device.

    Work with your shoulder relaxed.

    Keep your arm close by your side.

    Hold your elbow at a 100 to 110-degree angle.

    Keep your wrist in a straight or neutral position.

    Lightly supporting your forearm on your armrest or desk can help you keep your shoulder relaxed.

    Use Good Technique
    Use your hand, wrist, and forearm as a unit. Your wrist and hand should work as an extension of your forearm.

    Do not twist or move your wrist from side to side, or up and down when working.

    Keep your hand relaxed. Do not hold your pointing device with a tight grip.

    When not using the pointing device, let it go.

    Keep your fingers relaxed. Do not hold your fingers above the activation buttons when using the pointing device.

    Keep your thumb relaxed. Do not keep your thumb in a bent position when using the pointer.

    Avoid excessive thumb movements to operate a trackball. Use your fingers to spread the workload.

    Consider alternating hands if you are a high-volume user. But, use caution when switching hands, and make sure the device is made for the hand you are using. Give yourself time to get used to the change.

    Select the right device.

    Select a pointing device that is the right size and shape for your hand. It should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.

    Use a pointer with a scroll button option if you scroll frequently (especially if you are a web surfer).

    Try using a trackball if you have shoulder discomfort when using a mouse. A trackball reduces the need to use shoulder movements but can result in thumb or finger discomfort if not used properly.

    Alternate between different devices.

    Use Available Tools
    Shortcuts, keystrokes, and custom settings can be helpful in reducing your workload.

    Customize settings. The size, speed, and response of the pointer can be controlled for efficient operation.

    Avoid overshooting your target. Slow down the response speed if necessary.

    Incorporate keyboard shortcuts, or alternatives, into your work techniques. The following are some commonly used shortcuts:

    • F1 (Help)
    • Alt (Active the menu bar)
    • Esc (Close a combo box or dialog box)
    • Ctrl-A (Select all)
    • Ctrl-P (Point)
    • Ctrl-S (Save)
    • Alt-Tab (Move between active screens)

      Work Smart
      Limit the use of the pointing device as much as possible.

      The best remedy for a pointing device injury is rest.

      Take short 1 to 2-minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes.

      Change position frequently when working.

      Use proper posture.