Simple advice on the use of  ergonomic tools

In a previous post I referred to the research performed under the guidance of professor C.J. Snijders of Erasmus University Medical Center. That particular post focussed on the correct posture at your desk.
Now it’s time for the next step, which is: the proper use and position of the available (ergonomic) tools. This simple advice is meant to minimize the risk of physical complaints while working at your desk with a computer. 

 Sit relaxed at your computer screen

First of all: make sure you sit as relaxed and comfortable as possible in front of the screen. The angle at which you look at the screen should allow your head to be in an upright position, so don’t look up and don’t look down.

Modern screens can easily be adjusted to the correct height. Moreover, as screens get larger and larger, a 20” screen is nowadays quite an accepted standard. Even a dual set-up is used to allow for an easy overall view of the opened files.Be aware that the distance between your eyes and screen is more than when you read a book, so maybe you need an (extra) pair of glasses with an adapted focal distance. This is essential, in order to prevent unconsciously leaning forward to see what’s on the screen.

Use a small, flat keyboard

A multitude of keyboards is available in the market.
As a general advice a keyboard should be as flat as possible with keys that run as lightly as possible. Strains in forearm muscles, due to lifting hands and fingers, will thus be prevented.

It is advised to select a small keyboard, for example with a separate numerical unit. When you do not have to reach out to get to your mouse you prevent excessive strains in your shoulders. Otherwise continuous reaching may lead to complaints.

Get an ergonomic computer mouse

You need an ergonomic mouse, which prevents that your hand, fingers and arm are forced in an unnatural position. It is uncomfortable, for example, when your hand is continuously forced on its side. We call this a “handshake” position which is not only uncomfortable, but it also may generate unnecessary stresses and strains.

Another aspect is that your fingers and hand should be supported to prevent the need to hover over the mouse. Most people are not aware that a continuous “hovering position” of some of your fingers instigates severe muscle tension in the forearm.

Next to these hovering stresses and strains is the negative effect of gripping and pinching just to hold onto the mouse. It has been shown in our research, that this unnecessary muscle tension has a severe negative effect on your deep neck muscles. A well known complaint resulting from this is a tired feeling in and around the neck.

(More information can be found here: http://www.handshoemouse.com/research.html)

A mouse which supports hand and fingers prevents unnecessary gripping and pinching. Ideally your hand and fingers are under an angle of 25-30 degrees which is the preferred position for optimal relaxation.

Finally: another possible relief of tension is to pre-programme some keys of your keyboard so you need less typing action.