Five Steps for Ergonomic Computer Use

We’ve all felt it: Injuries caused by our tech overload. Carpal tunnel, stiff neck, shooting pains down the spine, cramps in places we didn’t know we had muscles, iPad finger (you know what I’m talking about) — all of these injuries can result from sitting at the computer for too long.

But these injuries can be minimized, if not avoided outright, with a little attentiveness to how you use your technological devices.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of some suggestions to help you improve your computer use.

Choose Your Tools
Laptops are designed to be compact for portability — but the way we have to sit when using them isn’t conducive to human health. So, when using these devices, sit at a proper computer workstation. If you can’t, make a few adjustments to avoid scrunching yourself into a pretzel.

Use an external mouse instead of the track pad. This keeps your arms at your sides where they belong rather than across the body. The keyboard on laptops is also an issue since they’re compact by nature — use an external keyboard if you can (preferably one that supports the wrists and allows the hands to separate).

Put Your Tools in the Right Place

Even if you’re using a mouse, where you put it can mean the difference between comfort and unnecessary carpal tunnel pressure. According to this article from Live Sciences, “Elevated carpal tunnel pressure while using a mouse is the result of both wrist extension and excessive fingertip force applied to press the button and grip the sides of the mouse. A lot of stress is also put on the forearm, especially when the external mouse is used incorrectly.” So keep your mouse next to your keyboard, not way off to the side and make sure it’s at elbow height.

Also, place your computer monitor at eye level. When using a laptop, people tend to gaze down rather than forward, which can lead to neck cramping. We also tend to sit too close to our monitors — keep the monitor at arms length and sit back in your chair if you notice yourself leaning in. This will prevent upper back and torso strain.

Stretch it Out
Stiff muscles can result from sitting in the same position for too long. Get up from the computer every now and then and do some quick stretches. Generally, active people are less likely to experience these kinds of injuries than sedentary people, so make sure you’re getting some exercise throughout the day. Daily stretches before sitting down at a workstation is also a good idea.

Assume the Right Position
Posture is really important. People may think of it when they’re working out, maybe when they’re standing, but few people consider posture when sitting down to work at the computer. Vreni Gurd of Wellness Tips wrote a great short article on how to check your posture to make sure you’re not putting unnecessary weight in the wrong places. She suggests setting a timer for every 10 minutes to check in with your posture and make corrections, if necessary. Do this long enough and it will become a habit.

Nutrients for Prevention
Vitamin B6 has been found to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Magnesium is used to relax muscles and release tension. But, in general, ensuring you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to operate is a good strategy for avoiding injury. Eating a whole, nutrient-dense diet with veggies, fruits and meats is a good idea as is taking a multivitamin.

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale