Exploring Ergonomics

Computers do a lot of great things. They crunch thousands of numbers and process data at phenomenal rates; they perform tedious, repetitive actions without complaining. Unfortunately, working on a computer can cause health problems. Ergonomics is the study, or science, of designing equipment that reduces discomfort for the user and reduces or prevents repetitive strain injury (RSI).

RSI is an injury to the muscles and tendons in the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, and/or fingers caused by the poor posture and frequent repetitive movements that accompany long hours in front of a computer. Some common examples of RSI are carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis, and tendonitis. Here are some recommendations you can follow to help reduce discomfort and RSI:

  • Maintain good posture. Be sure to keep good posture when working on the computer (see Figure 3-4). Put your feet flat on the floor; your thighs and back should be at a 90-degree angle from each other; your forearms should be on the table, parallel to the floor.
    Figure 3-4 Having good posture when working on a computer helps prevent injuries to your neck and back.
  • Use a comfortable keyboard and mouse. Try to keep the keyboard and mouse at a comfortable position so that you can keep a relaxed posture and not have to stretch too far to do your work. If at all possible, use an ergonomic keyboard, which has a left and a right half set at comfortable angles to help reduce the strain put on your wrists, arms, and fingers.
  • Monitor at eye level. Keep the monitor at eye level so that you don’t have to bend or stretch your neck to look at it. Keep your monitor two feet away from you because of the rays older monitors emit.
  • Take frequent breaks. It is so important to take time out in the day to get up and stretch your legs and arms. Staring at the computer screen too long can also hurt your eyes, so give them frequent breaks as well. It’s great for the mind, too!
  • Care for your eyes. If you are working at the computer for long periods of time, be sure to blink your eyes frequently and try to give them a break by focusing on a distant object for a few seconds every 15 to 20 minutes. Computer users have dry eyes because they don’t blink as often as someone not using the computer all day. Have some eye drops handy when working on the computer for long periods of time.
  • Use a wrist rest. If you do a lot of typing and mousing on the computer, use a wrist rest for the keyboard and mouse so that you don’t put unnecessary strain on your wrist because of bad positioning.
  • Invest in a good chair. If you’re going to be sitting for a while, you might as well invest in a good chair. Buy a chair that has an adjustable back and adjustable height and that provides lower-back support.
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