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6/17/05 Computer-related injuries are no laughing matter

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 16, 2005 4:59 AM PDT

Thank you everyone for your great submissions this week!

Doug, while Dave's answer comes directly from his experience, we also have a bunch of great answers in the honorable mentions and other advice from our members section below. Hopefully you'll find the information provided helpful and if you have a moment please swing by and join the discussion. I'm sure you have other questions to ask and please share with why this question came about.

Members, if you have additional advice for Doug, or would like to share some of your experiences or advice in regards to computer-related repetitive injuries, please feel free to post them in this thread below. Have a great weekend and please take care!

-Lee Koo
CNET Community


Question:

With more people spending more time in front of their
computers, carpal tunnel syndrome and other computer-related
injuries are becoming widespread. Do you have suggestions for
using computers in a way that avoids these problems? Where do
I go for one-stop information about ergonomics and products
that can lessen ergo problems, such as reviews or tests of
different products (chairs, mouse trays and pads, keyboards)?
How about advice regarding posture and seating measurements
relative to the monitor and desk?


Submitted by: Doug J.P.


Answer:

I may be an extreme case of PC-induced problems. As a software engineer, I had worked 10-hour days at computer terminals and PCs for more than 15 years when I began having RSI problems. I ended up having carpal tunnel surgery as well as lower back surgery for a ruptured disk. As a result, I began reading everything I could find on ergonomics. The lower back problems left me partially disabled and eligible for state aid in preparing myself for an alternative career. I decided to take my work experience and start my own Web site design business. It allowed me the flexibility of working fewer hours and scheduling my time over the entire week. I put together specifications for an ergonomic workstation and consulted with an ergonomic specialist for pointing devices and voice recognition software.

Here is the hardware and software I've found helpful for avoiding musculoskeletal pain and a recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hardware:

- Workstation

The "Dilbertville" workstation I spec'd included a height-adjustable corner section that can be raised from a 27 inch seated position to a 45 inch standing position. This allows me to work at the PC standing up. This flexibility was invaluable when I had prostate surgery and was unable to sit comfortably for a month afterwards.

- Keyboard/mouse platform

The workstation also has a height-adjustable keyboard/mouse platform. The mouse platform that can be pivoted in front of the right side of the tray or swung completely out of the way. Being able to position the mouse in front of the keyboard tray helps prevent hyper extension of the arm and shoulder. Yet I can move the mouse completely out of the way when I need to do keyboarding.

- Chair

I use a Herman Miller Aeron chair and consider it crucial for preventing computer-related pain. I had months of physical therapy after my lower back surgery, and my therapist came to my house and was able to make adjustments to the chair settings to optimize my seating position to minimize existing pain and prevent problems with stress to my upper back, neck and shoulders. I've had this chair over 5 years, and it's still going strong, unlike other office chairs I'd had that broke down after only a year or so.

- Alternative mice

My initial mouse substitute was a touchpad. It eliminated most of the wrist and arm movement. I worked for about a year with a touchpad from Cirque (http://www.cirque.com/), but its movement wasn't sensitive enough for graphics work. I did more research and found that the key attribute to my mouse alternatives was to avoid having the hand in the extended palm-down position, so the forearm wouldn't be rotated.

Keeping this in mind, my next alternative mouse was the Renaissance Mouse, now provided by 3M as its Ergonomic Mouse. (http://www.3m.com/us/office/myworkspace/mos_ergo.jhtml). It looks like a joystick, but it keeps the hand in a more natural vertical position. Its size can make it difficult to do fine movements, but you can get around this by taking the hand off the joystick and moving the base. It comes in 2 sizes, depending on your hand width.

The Ergonomic Mouse worked fine for several years, and by the time I was ready to try something else I discovered Evoluent's Vertical Mouse 2 (http://www.evoluent.com/). This optical mouse is the one I currently use and is the most comfortable mouse I've ever used. It looks like a tall version of a standard mouse, but it's designed to keep the hand in a handshake position. It comes in right hand and left hand models. It has a scroll wheel and 5 buttons, 4 of which are programmable.

Software:

I use break reminder software from Chequers Software (http://www.cheqsoft.com/). It's free for personal use. It neutralizes the mouse and keyboard, forcing me to take breaks - though there is an override option which allows me to cancel the break. It's very customizable, with short duration pauses of 5 to 60 seconds and rest breaks from 1 to 60 minutes long. It also has 3 presets for degrees of safety, depending on how much pain I'm experiencing. I tend to get so involved with my PC work that I lose track of time - and end up with back, neck and wrist pain. This software is invaluable for getting me to pause, stretch and get up from my workstation.

The Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software was recommended by the ergonomics consultant to reduce stress from typing. I started with their version 4 Mobile, which came with a portable digital recorder. This allowed me to record notes and reminders while away from the PC. I use the software most often for e-mail.

I hope my experience will be helpful and am looking forward to other responses you get to your question.

Dave D.
Mansfield Web Designs
Mansfield Center, CT
www.mansfieldwebdesigns.com


Submitted by: Dave D. of Mansfield Center, Connecticut

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Honorable mentions
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 16, 2005 4:59 AM PDT

***Honorable mentions***

Answer:

Check out "Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide" by Emil Pascarelli and Deborah Quilter. First published in 1994, I believe it has either been reissued or followed up by other books on the subject by the same authors. Also see if there is a local support group in your area for any of the conditions listed above.

Be as assertive as you can with your employers regarding adequate ergonometric furniture and computer parts. Wave keyboard. Correct height of components.

Try to use the least effort possible on the keyboard. If you're already getting pain, get it checked out - don't fool around. Check out Dragon Naturally Speaking - you may be able to avoid some keyboard use altogether. Be very careful in your selection of a mouse or other cursor mover - that can be very hard on your hands because it can require very find muscle coordination over and over to place the arrow correctly - more tension in your hands than simply typing (unless you learned to type on a typewriter - then try to lessen stroke impact).

How you sit is especially important: watch your posture - don't let your chin just forward. Be sure your eyes are level with the top of the monitor (sitting for hours with your neck crained upward in hell on neck and shoulders), fix chair height so your forearms are at right angles to your upper arm when you type and your knees are level or a tad lower than your hips (you may need a footrest to achieve this).

All these and many other factors can contribute to long term problems.
They are discussed at length in the book I recommended. It is MUCH easier to prevent these conditions than to fix them.

Carpal tunnel is just one component of problems that can affect computer users from the neck on down. I never developed carpal tunnel syndrom because that was understood fairly early and I protected my wrists (be sure you keep your hands level or pointing down when you type - fingers pointing up is very hard on the wrists; cheap easy assistance: tape layer of bubble wrap along any sharp edge (e.g. desk) that your wrist rests on). But I didn't protect my back and arms and so I am now disabled - I can't garden or embroider or do anything with my hands that I used to love to do.

Be warned. Be Careful. Be educated. If you have kids, be even more educated. I'm almost 60 and started using a keyboard when I was 14 (before computers). Kids are now using computers very early. They are often seated way too low relative to the keyboard and monitor. My 25 year old nephew already has very severe rsi problems and I know other young people who do as well.

Hope some of this is useful. If you're a bit scared: good. When you begin to experience pain there has already been a LOT of damage.
Prevention is better.


Submitted by: Cathleen C. of Berkeley, CA, USA

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Answer:

Doug,

Where did you hear that "carpal tunnel syndrome and other computer-related injuries are becoming widespread?" If this was the topic of a recent story on the "Your Health" segment of your local news, do yourself a favor and dismiss that "health panic alert" as nonsense. You're dealing with the same folks that rely on sensationalism and mass hysteria for ratings - think widespread satanic cult activities, rampant child abductions, diet of the week, and miracle drugs that are praised as panaceas one week, and condemned as carcinogenic agents the next.

Despite looking very hard, I simply couldn't find any evidence of a sudden increase in the incidence of conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), much less resulting from computer use. On the contrary, about the only thing I can recall even remotely suggesting some sort of computer-related injury epidemic is a Southwest Airlines commercial in which actors suffered hand injuries from clicking their mice buttons - hardly the stuff that makes it into The New England Journal of Medicine. (As you'll see below, that commercial might posses a kernel of truth.)

Concerns about CTS and similar injuries are valid, though arguably exaggerated. There are some risks inherent in the interaction with computers, just as there are risks involved in riding a bike, driving a car, or walking down the produce aisle. Having said that, unless you own a HAL 9000 computer that greets you with a creepy voice every time you enter the room, there is no good reason to think your computer is actively trying to hurt you.

Just like not all headaches are migraines, not all discomfort experienced while sitting in front of your computer is related to CTS and other repetitive stress injuries - or even to computer use. Let's examine how common worrisome symptoms actually are, how often they can be attributed to CTS, and whether the numbers support any significant increase in new cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and related maladies.

A 1999 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concludes

"Symptoms of pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands are common in the general population. Based on our data, 1 in 5 symptomatic subjects would be expected to have CTS based on clinical examination and electrophysiologic testing."
(http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/282/2/153)

The sources I examined estimated the prevalence of the aforementioned symptoms at about 15%. In the six years since the JAMA article was published, that figure has remained virtually unchanged. That means CTS continues to be essentially a low-prevalence condition, diagnosed in roughly 3% of the general population.

Notice that I wrote CTS is diagnosed - as opposed to present - in 3% of the population. There is some controversy surrounding the clinical tests used to diagnose this condition, so we must allow for the possibility of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome being currently under-diagnosed. But even assuming a worst-case scenario in which everyone presenting with the symptoms was found to have CTS, the condition would still have a relatively low prevalence: 15%.

(The low prevalence also explains why there aren't massive studies conducted every year. The energy and money is better spent on conditions such as cancer and diabetes!)

The obvious question is then whether cases of CTS and similar disorders are disproportionately found among computer users, that is, are you at a higher risk simply because of all those instant messages and e-mails you type? According to The Cleveland Clinic,

"Computer keyboard use has not been definitively associated with CTS."
(http://cms.clevelandclinic.org/ortho/body.cfm?id=42#1)

That's the position of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at one of the top four hospitals in the United States. Interestingly enough, a 2003 medical paper titled "Typing Rarely Cause of Carpal Tunnel" raises the possibility that your mouse is more likely to cause CTS than your keyboard. (http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/66/79761.htm) The same paper states that the onset of CTS-like symptoms is often times "related to an accident, other medical conditions and smoking." Thus, it would be a mistake to assume that pain experienced while working at your computer is inevitably a portent or evidence of CTS.

So what does this mean? It means that while the risks are real, there is no reason to panic. Simply spending a few hours answering e-mails or surfing the web might not lead to injury by itself.

Consider this real-life example: Recently, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano had to leave a game early due to soreness in his forearm. The soreness was attributed to Zambrano spending five hours instant messaging his brother in Venezuela. It is easy to see how such a marathon IM session might have caused discomfort. But chances are pitching - an unnatural motion - contributed to the problem, and at least one team source felt the injury might have been related to the pitcher taking batting practice from both sides of the plate. Clearly, several factors seem to have played a role in Zambrano's injury, but what caught people's imagination and got blamed was his web surfing habits. Why a millionaire athlete must rely on instant messaging to avoid long-distance bills might've had something to do with the media's fascination with the story, too! (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=caple/050525)

Numerous epidemiological studies strongly hint at CTS (and other repetitive stress injuries) resulting from exposure to a combination of risk factors. Repetitive work and/or stress is just one of them. (http://www.ergonext.com/aa-studies/studies-cts.htm) You can learn more about these risk factors from the excellent Cleveland Clinic article referenced above, and by reading this short WebMD piece:

http://my.webmd.com/hw/health_guide_atoz/stc123626.asp?navbar=tr5916

One risk factor worth mentioning here is posture. The position of your body relative to your workspace is arguably one of the most important risk factors when dealing with repetitive stress injuries. So much so, that the study of this relationship has evolved into the science of ergonomics. (http://my.webmd.com/hw/healthy_women/tr5916.asp)

Advice on "healthy computing" or "home office ergonomics" is both abundant and extremely easy to find. A Google search using either term as query will yield plenty of results - most featuring essentially the same general recommendations. These short ergonomic guides offer about as much information as most of us would need to see whether improvements can be made, or changes needed.

You may already have one of these ergonomic guides in your computer. If you have a Microsoft mouse, you might find a "Mouse Healthy Computer Guide" under START/ALL PROGRAMS/MICROSOFT MOUSE. This short document can also be accessed online through either of the following links:

http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/hcg/default.html
http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/hcg/hcg_view.mspx


Another excellent source of information is HealthyComputing.com:

http://www.healthycomputing.com/


By now you are probably thinking, "Hey, I wanted a one-stop source for everything from information to buying advice!" Sorry, but last time I checked we human beings do not come with a "One Size Fits All" tag attached to our necks.

Because ergonomics deals with the relationship of bodies to their surroundings, and there are about as many individual variations as there are bodies, there is no substitute for experience. The guidelines found in ergonomic documents are merely starting points, universal concepts that apply to most as written, but that might need to be tweaked here or there for others. The same holds true for "ergonomic products." There is no one chair that fits all, let alone do so comfortably or safely.

When it comes to ergonomic products themselves, your best bet is to get off your chair (breaks are healthy!) and try them on for size at a local retailer. National office supply stores like Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot tend to carry a surprising selection of ergonomic products. You should also be able to find ergonomic products and services in your phone book or local newspaper, under "office supplies," "medical supplies" and/or "ergonomic products." The employees in some of these specialized stores might be able to offer excellent advice. However, don't just buy into the hype or be wowed by a long list of features. A task chair may have every conceivable ergonomic feature built into it, but if you are unable to sit on it comfortably, what good is it? Make sure to "test drive" products, as things might feel quite differently after you've been sitting on or holding them for 10-15 minutes.

I would also recommend researching items of interest before buying. Online reviews from customers who have purchased the exact or similar items might give you an idea of durability issues, lack of features, or whether that state-of-the-art ergonomic wireless mouse is a good fit for a lefty or that "natural" keyboard too big for the sliding tray on computer desks. Reviews may also mention alternative or similar products that might be worth checking out. Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) seems to have user reviews on every product ever made, so it might be a good starting place. Another site you should check is Epinions (www.epinions.com). The websites of the aforementioned office supply retailers might prove helpful in this regard, too. Keep in mind, ergonomic features come at a premium, so it makes sense to spend your money on products that fit your needs and can withstand the wear and tear of daily use.

Ultimately, your best "one-stop source" is your head. (http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/70/81133.htm) Even if the risks of injury are small, it pays to be proactive. Your body will let your brain know when something does not feel right. Pay attention to it, and chances are your computer sessions will be productive and pain-free. If something really worries or bothers you, or if discomfort persists, seek a physician's advice. If an ergonomic product does not feel as comfortable as its "regular" counterpart, stick with the latter. As you will see from the ergonomic guidelines recommended above, healthy computing does not require your changing every piece of computer equipment and furniture you own. In fact, beware of any ergonomics expert trying to talk you into changing everything from your keyboard to your toothbrush. Aristotle exalted moderation as one of the nobler human virtues. I'll take his track record over that of any self-proclaimed ergonomics guru any time. Very few things could be considered as ergonomic as awareness and common sense.

Incidentally, if you do own a HAL 9000 with a creepy voice, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the least of your problems...

Submitted by: Miguel K. of Columbus, Ohio

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Answer:

Ergonomics and the Computer 101

With people spending more time at the computer concerns about ergonomics should be on their minds. While Doug wants to do the right thing for his body, purchasing the best ergonomic computer equipment isn?t necessarily enough. Actually, most of the time you can use the components and/or furniture you already own and concentrate on more important ergonomic issues. If your body isn?t in the proper position in relation to the keyboard, mouse and monitor it doesn?t matter what equipment you are using or what you are doing, your body will suffer the consequences.

Seating

The chair needs to be adjustable. The person seated should have both feet flat on the floor with knees bent at about 90 degrees. If the chair?s limitations won?t allow for this posture another chair should be used that can be adjusted. For a short person a footrest will solve the problem.

Working Height

Working Height is the height in which the hands are located most of the time. For offices and workstations, this is usually the keyboard and mouse height. Working Height is elbow height with the forearm bent at 90 degrees or slightly lower (Max 2" lower). NOT HIGHER! This is why many keyboard trays are mounted below the work surface.

Visual Height

Generally, eye height is from the center of the monitor/document to the top of the monitor/document. This may involve chair adjustment but if the chair is adjusted properly as stated above then the monitor, document stand/holder and/or working height needs to be adjusted. This may involve purchasing a more adjustable workstation or even having one customized to your ergonomic requirements. People who have to tilt their heads back to look through the lower lenses of their bifocals need to get the monitor lower, even if it requires cutting a hole in the work surface to set the monitor in. It may be easier or preferred to get prescription glasses specifically designed for use at a computer.

Horizontal Adjustments

Monitor and keyboard should be directly in front of the user. The monitor should be 18" to 28" from the user. If your desktop is just wide enough for the monitor to sit on and the keyboard is on a slide out tray below, you are too close. A good way to get the monitor far enough away is to use a workstation designed for a corner. You could try placing your standard desk across a corner and push the monitor back to get away from it.

There is more to ergonomics than what I have touched on here but these suggestions will definitely help keep your body happy.
Submitted by: Don S.

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Answer:

Dear CNet & Doug,

Of course ergonometry has the technical answer to your question. The problem is that ergonometry is different for every human being; there are a bunch of tips?

Myself, I have been in front of a computer since Windows 3.1

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Carpal Tunnel News Item
by rozeebe / June 27, 2005 10:48 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

While having thumb problems several years ago, which were aggravated by computer use, I found great relief by having a work table set at right angles to my computer table. I have my mouse pad and mouse on the table set at right angles and rest my forearm on this table while using the mouse. It works just super.

Rosemary

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ABSOLUTELY MINT IDEA!
by H3lpdesk / July 4, 2005 11:44 AM PDT

I tried it, and it's a fantastic idea. thanks Rosemary!

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Additional advice from our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 16, 2005 4:59 AM PDT

*** Additional advice from our members ***


Answer:

Hi Doug,

I have always preferred the Track Ball mice over the standard mice mainly due to the fact to eliminate most all the wrist and arm movement and also to conserve space on my desktop.

I have tried just about all the trackballs on the market and always come back to the "Kensington Expert Mouse" model 64325 as it works the best for me. It is probably the most expensive in the industry.

I combine this trackball with a mouse pad by "Fellows" that has a gel wrist pad built in that I found at the local Wal-Mart.

As an example my wife uses a computer at work and complained to me that her wrist was really hurting and she also spoke with her brother a local Orthopedic Surgeon and he was going to set her us with some sort of medical wrist and arm support device and then I suggested that we try one of these Kensington Trackballs and the problem she was experiencing went away quickly and has not returned.

Hope this helps a bit?


Submitted by: John of Sheridan, Wyoming

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Answer:

Doug,
There is a company called SafeComputing that specializes in selling ergonomic computer equipment, furniture & supplies. It was founded by a man who developed carpal tunnel & had to search for equipment that would let him continue his work. They have a "Resources" page that provides several dozen links to government, educational, & industry information websites. Here is the link: http://www.safecomputing.com/index.htm. I hope you find this Helpful.

Submitted by: David L.

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Answer:

I have had quite a few staff complaining of carpal tunnel pain and have tried many products on the market. One item that seems to relieve CPS is the RollerMouse by Contour Design. It uses a circular rod to control mouse travel. Once you get used to the change the user is extremely happy with the product. Here is their website, http://www.contourdesign.com/rollermouse/

Submitted by: Roy C.

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Answer:

Subject: Prevention of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This is one of my pet peeves. The cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is an improper position of the forearms and wrists.

When I took typing classes, we were taught the proper way: back straight, feet flat on the floor, extended slightly. The arms had to be strictly horizontal, with the hands no higher than wrist height.

The problem today is that computer users have never been taught the proper way to prevent wrist problems. Today?s user sits down at his/her keyboard, quite often on a table or desk which is too high. This angles the hands up from the wrists, in an awkward position, putting a strain on the wrist area, eventually resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome.

I have been typing and typesetting since I was 11 years old, putting in many thousand hours at the keyboard. I have a long list of clients for whom I typeset books, monthly newsletters and do graphics and technical illustrations, working for hours every day on my Mac Powerbook or my G4, which are both at the proper height.

My doctors have checked me for carpal tunnel syndrome, and there is not a trace.

Please spread the word. This method of prevention comes as a great surprise to many people who just sit down and type in all sorts of weird positions, then wonder why they have to wear braces on their wrists.


Submitted by: Foxy E.

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Answer:

When I first got a computer, about five years ago, I got carpel tunnel syndrome in short order. Several things have eliminated this problem.

1) I got a "roller ball" mouse from Logitech

2) I switch hands occasionally. I don't know if you can do this, but I am
more or less left-handed. I was able, with a little work, to switch hands
quite successfully.

3) I got a chair with arms which matched the height of the keyboard shelf.

Hope these suggestions are helpful!

Submitted by: Dan P.

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Answer:

I had wrist pains ,I was pretty sure it was from my mouse,I do a lot of EBAY BIZ so someone in one of yahoo groups suggested using a track ball mouse.I went to BEST BUY and bought one,$17.00 approximately.This took a few days to get used to,it also had several other useful features.This was a godsend.no more pains and very easy to work,The only draw back was the learning curve.I hope this helps Best wishes Bill

Submitted by: Bill S.

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Answer:

I have noticed over the years that people either have not been taught how to hold their hands above their keyboards or they have become lazy through extended use of keyboards. I have been typing on either a typewriter or a keyboard for about 50 years, and I have never had even a hint of carpal tunnel. I was taught that you hold your wrists up, over the keyboard, not rest them on the keyboard or on a so-called carpal tunnel saver which sits at the bottom of the keyboard and which people use to rest their wrists while typing. Holding up the wrists inherently allows the hands to "hover" above the keyboard and not cause the typist (keyboardist) to have to reach for the keys above "home row" (ASDFGHJKL;). I believe resting your wrist is a major cause of carpal tunnel because the hand/wrist does not move when typing is done; it just sits and causes the wrist to be used in an unnatural way. I'm not a doctor, but this has been my observation over the years.

Submitted by: Marti E. of Portland, OR, USA

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Answer:

Some basic advice to avoid ergo problems when using a computer:

First, avoid laptops whenever possible. Here's why: when working at a computer, the monitor should be eye level and the keyboard should be no higher than your elbows. This is simply impossible to achieve at a laptop unless you prop up the laptop (so it's at eye level) up and plug in a separate keyboard.

Many people work at desks that were not designed for computer use.
Again, the keyboard should be no higher than the elbows. Otherwise, to reach the keyboard you have to cramp your wrists, and this is when the problems begin. You should invest in a computer desk or table with a keyboard tray. If this is not possible, buy a chair that's adjustable and can be raised high enough to allow the keyboard to be sufficiently low (again, no higher than the elbows, so that the wrists can be relaxed). Taking frequent breaks, rolling the wrists to relax them, squeezing a rubber ball to exercise the hands -- these can all help.

Newer LCD screens are adjustable so they can be raised to eye level. If you don't have such a screen, prop the monitor up with books.

When working at your computer make sure you are able to keep you torso up and back comfortably. Make sure the chest is not collapsed (which results in slouching). Think of keeping your shoulders relaxed (don't force them back) and wide. Thinking "up" from the top of your head can also be helpful.

The Alexander Technique, which helps people recognize and address habitual poor use of their bodies, can be a great help in avoiding or addressing carpal tunnel syndrome and other problems resulting from poor ergonomics. You can probably find a teacher in your community by doing some online research.

Submitted by: Peter L.

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Answer:

Any suffering from carpal tunnel problems in their wrists might get relief by taking B-6 Vitamins on a regular basis. It has helped some
people that I know.

Submitted by: Louise K.A.

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Answer:

Hi Doug,
My aerobics instructor stopped a lesson one day and told us to all stand at arms length, sideways to the closest wall. She then instructed us to place one hand flat on the wall at shoulder height, and push away from the wall with the middle finger only, always staying in contact with the surface and holding this position for about 30 seconds at a time. Then turn around and repeat on the other side. Apparently this exercises a muscle that is rarely flexed in the wrist. It is difficult to do and a little painful but I have been using computers now for over 20 years and have never had carpal tunnel syndrome.
She told us this exercise had saved her from having surgery.
Try it, what have you go to lose!!

Submitted by: Cindy C.

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Answer:

One of the most common problems is that people bend their wrists when typing. As I learned years ago in typing class, to avoid wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, you need to posture your hand so that the wrists are level. Imagine having a quarter on the back of your wrist and type so that the quarter doesn't move.

Another help is to use a trackball instead of a mouse so your hand rests on the trackball with a straight wrist.

Another suggestion ref ergonomics is to place your computer screen slightly below eye level to avoid neck strain. Take your monitor off the top of the computer and put it flat on the desk. Put the monitor in front of you rather than off to the side to avoid neck strain.

Situate your chair to have your knees slightly below your hip level and keep your knees flat on the floor.

These will definitely help!

Submitted by: Mary S.

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Answer:

Doug JP,

This would have to be one of the biggest posers I've read in CNET.

With occupational health and safety regulations in our workplaces, health care issues in our governments, along with employer liabilities, it is this exact problem that gets swept under the carpet. Exactly what is correct here?

I myself, have an ergonomic chair, a keyboard wrist pad etc at work, but not at home, double standards eh? I use a mouse extensively at work, and I certainly get a sore arm and wrist. At home, I use the PC everynight, I hardly use the mouse as I mostly use keyboard short cuts with different programs here, than at work.

There are a lot of products out there claiming to be the bees knees in prevention or cure, good for some if they actually work.

I suggest you contact a professional for help on an individual basis, one's personal comfort need not be the same as another.

This topic should'nt be taken lightly, it's a serious matter in a lot workplaces, and homes too.

Being a medical condition, I'd take medical advise.

I'm in Melbourne, Australia, below is a link from the Australian Physiotherapy Association.

http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Computer_related_injuries?OpenDocument

Submitted by: Jim T.

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Answer:

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is caused by hypothyroidism. Many people are suffering from hypothyroidism due to the significant amount of soy in our processed food products. Soy interferes with the peripheral thyroid hormone conversion of T4 to active T3. Current diagnosis and treatment guidelines in the medical field does not accurately detect this conversion difficulty which so many people suffer from.
How do I know this? I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem in 1969. In late 1997 I quit taking my thyroid hormone tablets. Within a couple of weeks I began to develop carpal tunnel (I could barely steer my car at times). Ironically, I discovered by accident that Jasmine Tea relieves even the worst pain! I also began suffering from what is called Fibromyalgia (also caused by hypothyroidism).
Of course, I went back on thyroid hormone replacement and all symptoms disappeared. I should mention that I'm a computer technician (26 years) and have worked for fortune 500 companies for the past twelve years. Jasmine tea not only worked for me, it has also worked for many employees I've recommended it to who were suffering from carpal tunnel symptoms.
It will probably take medical science another thirty five years to realize the flaws in the diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism (it was thirty five years ago when medical science adopted new diagnosis and treatment guidelines for hypothyroidism that have failed us). I've invested thousands of hours doing medical research. Hypothyroidism is the underlying cause of hundreds of medical conditions. Just to mention a few: Diabetes type II, infertility, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, high cholesterol, glaucoma, obesity, depression, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc. I have a friend who was suffering severely with Multiple Sclerosis. When I told him about soy, he removed it from his diet and he has improved tremendously during the past year!
But don't take my word for it. Do your own research!
Cindy W.

Submitted by: Cindy W.

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Answer:

Ergonomics for computers have been studied in Australia and there is a standard that is adhered to by most office situations and is put out by the Work Cover Authority of NSW.

You can view their standards at: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/8402C9C7-517D-4D11-8770-344D64DD8B33/0/guide_call_centres_589.pdf

Also you have to remember you are looking directly at a light source for an extended period and you should have a break every hour for ten minutes.

Your head height is critical as well. It should be in a position so that your eyes are level with the top of the display and at least two feet from the screen.This can be achieved by using a gas lift chair, or lowering the display.

The body should be erect and the back straight with the forearms at rightangles to the upper arms so that the fingers can touch the keyboard. The keyboard itself may have to be lowered or raised to the right position.

If you do not have the correct position then you will notice an ache in the neck or shoulders and as this progresses you will end up with a curved spine and very sore wrists.


Submitted by: Garry B.

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Answer:

Hi my name is Rich and I work at a computer Help Desk so I am constantly on the computer. I have Carpral Tunnel Syndrome in both hands. I have found great products that offer relief at www.painreliever.com they carry the same products used in therapy.

Submitted by: Harris G.

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Answer:

I highly recommend three essential pieces of equipment that has helped me avoid wrist pain. The first is a pen pad. I don't use a mouse, except for mouse-essential applications. While mousing, your fingers are extended, you have to make repetitive finger motions in that position, and often people support the weight of their whole arm on the wrist. With a pen, you can hold your hand more naturally closed, clicking is done with your thumb or just setting the pen down on the tablet, and the whole side of your hand rests on the table instead of the inside of your wrist. A good pen pad maker is Wacom.

The second item is a mouse tray that I can adjust to bring the mouse closer to me so my arm doesn't get overextended. If you have to reach for your mouse, it's likely throwing your back out of alignment and causing undue stress all over your body. In fact, what I really want is something I've seen my father, the architect, use at his office, an adjustable armrest that supports your arm while you're mousing. I couldn't find it in the states.

The third item is a little wristband to keep my wrist warm. I find that on cold nights, the part of my wrist that is in constant contact with the pen pad gets cold, and I start to feel achy. This way I keep my wrist insulated from that, and problem solved.

Submitted by: Faye K.

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Answer:

This particular site offers more information and advise than most, http://eeshop.unl.edu/rsi.html , though there is a huge amount of information out there on repetitive stress injuries or syndromes, because so many people are being afflicted. Actually, though, the best advice that covers pretty much all the angles is "Do everything in moderation" and think of pain as an indicator that something needs to be changed. When you select equipment and furniture for your office or home office, then consider carefully what is a normal position for your body. Think of each part of your body, not just "dem bones" and remember that they are all connected. If you repeatedly stress or injure any one part of your anatomy, all the connected parts will suffer.

Hope this helps.

Submitted by: Karena A.

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Answer:

Microsoft used to have a site just for issues like Carpal Tunnel, and other healthy computing for users. Go to http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/hcg/hcg_view.mspx

But here is a site that has a software program with tips, monitor and exercises for relieving stress from daily computer use.

http://www.publicspace.net/ergonomix/

Submitted by: E Ordonez

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Answer:

I've typed at a PC for the last 20 years, and I've dealt with tendonitis, shoulder muscles that became as hard as iron and painful, and carpal-tunnel symptoms.

About 10 years ago, I switched to a trackball mouse (constant clicking with the index finger stresses a whole chain of muscle and tendon groups--the thumb click is far less stressful), and I use every shortcut key combination I can think of to stay away from the mouse. The result--no more iron shoulders, no more tendonitis, no career-ending carpal tunnel symptoms.

Be prepared for a week or so of muscle relearning, but after that you will never go back to mouse pain.

Submitted by: Roger K.

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Answer:

Dear Doug,

Depending on what type of computer you have, notebook vs. modem will more or less dictate what you need to do to help prevent the types of problems you are talking about.

With a notebook, I usually use (can't remember the exact name of it) but it keeps the notebook off the desk in the back, as a notebook underneath can get extremely hot if you don't, and I don't use the hot keys either, that way my hands get a break by using the mouse.

The most important thing you can do, and after working on computers for 35 years or so YIKES) is to have a well padded chair, with arm rests (chair and arm rests should be made of soft material, not leather) and have it at the correct height for your legs and desk!

I have had tendon transfers in my right hand, so I know all about having carpel tunnel, fibro, etc., and I always remind myself to make sure to sit straight. Just pretend like there are 2 pieces of wood behind your back and keep your shoulders back.

The most important thing however, is give yourself a time out every 20 minutes or so. Get up, walk around or do warm ups for exercise, particular stretching. If you can find an ergonomic keyboard and it works for you, that's great, however I've found with my notebook, I can just rest the back part of my palm on the board, and just type, thereby keeping them in align with my arm.

I don't like the ones that are split and tilted, and call themselves correct ergonomically.

Always remember, whether notebook or modem, most can be tilted or lifted to your height and finger and/or palm width.
However getting up and stretching for 10 minutes, well that is about the best thing you can do. And don't just start running in place. As we get older our tendons have a tendency to start to shorten, so use those ten minutes to really give wrists, hands, legs and feet a good stretch. Use a timer if you have to so that you don't forget to get off the computer and stretch and walk around!!! Also, if you have the use of a spa, getting into that after working on a computer is great, just let the jets of water relax tense muscles.

So basically it boils down to being smart about your equipment, ie., desk and chair, and get a keyboard that fits you, not the other way round or you trying to make a small computer board work. Even notebooks, if the keyboard is too small, get a larger one, and plug it in and use it instead of the small keyboards that come with many notebooks. I have a 17 inch screen on my notebook, but because of what I do, I had to have a computer that could store tons of information.

Just use common sense about your equipment and you should be fine.
Happy Computing,

Submitted by: Nanette

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Answer:

Having had carpal tunnel syndrome from a factory job I try to make my home computer as comfortable as possible. the biggest thing I have to watch is how much time I spend on it. I also have a bad back. Other then that we have a good office chair at our computer. It's not just on any desk it was made by a cabinet maker to be the precise height it's supposed to be. I have a stool under the desk to put my feet on to take pressure off of my back. I also have a gel pad on my mouse pad and a gel pad at the key board. I also remember to stretch, quite often. If you don't stretch and move your joints they will lock up. For instance it hurts my wrist to type this, so half way through I have to move my wrists in circles so they stay loose. I won't win any typing awards by my pain is less and that's more important. After all this is my home computer, not my job. Try to limit your time on your home CPU, especially if you're on one all day.

Submitted by: Laurie B.

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Answer:

I'm sorry, but to even read the term "computer-related injury" is laughable. I am a disabled firefighter, I work a desk job after taking a 2x4 piece of lumber through my abdomen when the floor of a building we were in collapsed. People crying about "Carpel Tunnel Syndrome", and even attempting to collect disability income from it have NO IDEA what real pain is. I spent the better part of two years in rehab, and now I have the "luxury" of sitting in front of a computer form the rest of my working career, and being subjected to posibly "computer-related injury"!!

"Ergo problems"?? We should all be so lucky, Doug.

Submitted by: David G.

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Answer:

you can buy mouse mats with built in wrist support,and a support which is built in to the keyboard, I use both and as i have arthritis in my hands it does stop any wrist strain. Most shops sell these,hope this is of some help

Submitted by: Rita

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Answer:

Ergonomics and posture, etc., for the PC user; The HP (Hewlitt-Packard) website offers excellent, specific answers, plus they recently had an Ergonomics Class (6sessions) that covered the entire field, with emphasis on setting your own environment up to suit your own needs. They will probably offer the course again, but their Ergonomics information is complete, with links. I took it, and was greatly surprised by the NEWEST and LATEST, taught by an expert instructor who is also a fitness instructor. Check it out.

Submitted by: ca Harts

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Answer:

One of the 'easiest' solutions for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, is taking Vitamin B-6.
100 mg daily. Also taking MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a good anti-Arthritis Herbal.

Submitted by: Lynn C. of Madison AL

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Answer:

how about an the optical mouse glove, it's was is design is basically the same principal as rubbing your for -finger on your thumb. think about what I am saying,if you put your hand on the mouse which is on the pad - move it abound - the pointer points - left click/right click blah blah blah.....
forfinger left click finger right click this is similar the to sign language, oh i also have the basic design for this and the mirror imge
keyboard plus htis one is grreat my best " the knee board keyboard "
this one drives instructors batty.

Submitted by: texas speck

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Answer:

Dear sirs,
I have many many problems with my back. I am a computer technician during the day and during the evening I spend many hours in front of my computer. I invested in a good screen, which I have learned is more important than the computer itself. I have a good chair which is not overly padded. The office chair has a straight back and the elevation can easily be changed. I have set it that my eyes are at the bottom third of the screen and my elbows are supported on the arm rest when I use the keyboard. The mouse is not on the desk, It is on a small table that I can work it with my for arm slightly down and still have minimal support from the arm rest of my chair. I have multifocal glasses. If you need reading glasses it is advisable to make up a set of glasses especially for computer use. I spend about forty minutes a day on my bicycle. By the way this year I am turning 60. Yaakov Hillel Kibbutz Lavi Israel 15267

Submitted by: . Yaakov H. of Kibbutz Lavi Israel

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Answer:

Easy one this time.
1. Sit in an upright position facing the monitor
2. Adjust the height of your chair so that your arms are parallel to the keyboard so the hands are straight and not on a upward angle, where you could cause carpel tunnel
3. Adjust your monitor so than you look straight ahead, or down (never up as you could pinch a critical nerve in the neck)
4. Go to your local drug store and purchase a Handeze therapeutic support glove. Although I don't have carpel tunnel, I use it to stop chaffing of the wrist when the hands move along the hand rest just below the keyboard.
Sincerely,


Submitted by: George L. of Sarasota, FL

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Answer:

Corpal Tunnel has been with me since before computers!
I purchased a full computer desk, an executive armed chair with pillow feature and lumbar support. These two items have been a lifesaver! Wasn't cheap, but it beats the kitchen table. The monitor is at the proper height and angle:no bending neck up or down. The chair is height adjustable:no leg strain, the arms on the chair help relieve the excess movement of your arms and wrists, the keyboard pull out is just the right height. In addition to it all, I have installed a circular florescent light on the desk, with a moveable arm, the direct light really helps with reduction of eye strain.

Submitted by: Paula W. of Andersonville, TN


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Answer:

Dear Sers and Madams:

The ergonomics of our computer work stations are based on the desk which was the last thing we used before computers came about. I still do not know why the witting desk became a flap surface except to keep the pencils and pens from rolling off. Early writing desks had a tilted surface to match itself to human form and was a much better design ergonomically.

When the computer started in uses it was designed to work on the desk because that is what we had. I have been working on new work station designs and from my education in Human Biomechanics know that a flat surface is the last place a keyboard and mouse should be used. There have been many attempts to change the work position but until the companies are ready to except a new concept everything is a fix if it works with a desk . N o real equipment that has come to market can change the Repetitive Work Injury.

Working on a computer does not require a flat surface but change is hard to come by. If a study were made and insurance companies found that there exposure became much less to workman's comp injuries, then and only then will the design of a work station change. I would think a company like CNET who's very existence is related to computers would fund such a study. CNET should help come up with a human form design to combat all the ergonomic shortcoming we all face while working on a computer.

I am Doctor Stewart R and hold US patents on devices which help with human form. I would be happy to share my IDEAS with CNET and together we could show the industry in what postural position a human could work all day with more productivity. A side efect to this would be with less square footage per employee. I put this challenge to CNET as an open invitation to answer the question asked.

The important thing to keep in mind is everything up to now is only a fix to working at a desk which is the last place the keyboard and mouse should be set.

Submitted by: Dr. Stewart A R of Panther Valley, Holmdel, NJ

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Answer:

One thing for sure is to change the style of mouse you use. I have tried different ones and find the Roller Ball style mouse, (my particular one is a Logitech rollerball), but I know there are many others on the market. It stays stationary for your wrist, and all you need to do is move the ball, and click the side buttons. Since I have chronic crippling arthritis, and started using this style mouse, my carpal tunnel pain has diminished remarkably. Hope this helps.

Submitted by: zezee3

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Answer:

While this may not be a good solution for everyone, I use a Windows Tablet PC. While at home, it generally sits in the dock with a full-sized mouse & keyboard. While out and about, on the commuter train in the morning or even while sitting on the sofa at home: it?s a tablet, with no mouse & keyboard in sight to strain my wrist. The most direct way of avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome is to avoid repetitive motions, i.e., avoid typing and mousing as much as possible. In future years, as voice recognition becomes a viable primary human interface, repetitive stress problems from computers should decrease.

Submitted by: Tom H.

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CTS
by omatrish / June 16, 2005 10:24 PM PDT

In response to the problem that so many have with CTS.
I purchased an exercise widget from http://stopcts.com/ and it is remarkable how it works. They have a whole site dedicated to the exercise tool and its use. I suggested it to a friend that was facing surgery very soon and he bought it and it completely cured one arm and significantly helped the other as to avoid surgery. He continues to make progress with it. I also have no more symptons myself. A real wonder of a tool.
Best of luck to all of you out there that suffer with CTS. I might mention that this exercise tool is also a preventative.
Regards,
Trish

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Vitamin B-6
by batavier / June 17, 2005 6:04 AM PDT
In reply to: CTS

A European study has shown that B-6 reduces and (as in my case) eliminates inflammation of tendons. I did not have CTS; my whole right hand was immobile. A couple of B-6 tablets and I was fine in a few hours.

I guess, because there is no financial advantage to any corporation, these studies would be unlikely to take place in the US Sad

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B6 for carpal tunnel
by olddad / June 17, 2005 8:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Vitamin B-6

B6 works for people deficient in B6,It sure worked for me. Try it first then surgery.
Hope this helps

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Financial advantage
by Talinus / June 17, 2005 11:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Vitamin B-6

In our litigious society, not being sued may be all the financial advantage, and incentive, needed to prompt studies as well as action on RSI.

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Carpal Tunnel Avoidance
by philding / June 17, 2005 6:40 AM PDT

I was worried about carpal tunnel, even though I've never had a wrist pain from typing. (My hands go numb on a conventional bike, so I ride a recumbent.)

I figured that my wrists and ability to continue to use a computer were worthwhile, so I looked in to really ergonometric keyboards.

I bought a pair of Kinesis Essential keyboards. They look like keyboards created by Salvador Dali after a particularly rewardng acid trip. You can see what I mean by looking at Kinesis's website:

<http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/>

It took me about a day or so to get used to the Kinesis keyboard. I actually think I type faster because my fingers don't have to move as far as they do on a regular keyboard. As far as I can tell, my wrists aren't involved when I type because the heels of my palms, the fleshy part nearest the wrists, are resting on the keyboard. They Never Move unless I'm reaching for the number keys.

Have I averted carpal tunnel? I don't know. I figured that it was worth $200 for the keyboard just in case I did manage to avert it.

I've been using the keyboards for five or ten years (my how time flies). They've been reliable. You can take them apart with a Phillips screwdriver and clean 'em out. Mine are pretty beat up and a little grungy, but a new set of wrist rest pads and some 409 and they would look a lot better.

Plus, no one's going to want to borrow your computer.

I'd buy another one, sometimes Kinesis has refurbished keyboards that have been to trade shows and back, if my current one went bad or went missing.

I use an optical mouse with a finger wheel. The reliability and smoothness of an optical mouse over a ball mouse seems to make it easier on me. I've tried trackballs and I like them too. I like Logitech's Trackmen. Looking at their website, I think I'd try the Marble Mouse if I was in the market.

Phil Smith
Albany

Phil Smith

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Some other techniques
by Serithnal / June 17, 2005 7:26 AM PDT

I've used the computer quite a bit over the past few years and I've developed some helpful techniques.

-Take advantage of the keyboard raising stilts.
-Whenever your're not typing but still need to be ready, rest your hands on the outer-most heel of the each respective hand. Not only does this work well for typing easily when you're bored, but this optimizes the wrist and finger range of motion. This is also the easiest and fastest way to nagivage using the mouse, lifting and replacing the mouse whenever needed.
--If you type this way for extended periods of time, use a spongy material such as a mousepad for support.
-keep the shoulders, arms and wrists relaxed as much as possible.
-If it all possible, have the keyboard at waist-height and the monitor at head-level.
-When no work is being done with a hand for at least five seconds, have the free hand at rest hanging by your side, across your lap, or somewhere that the blood can flow easily with gravity.
-Every hour, stretch and move your joints. There's a reason why SATs and ACTs have stretch sessions after a certain number of sections.
-Don't slump over the keyboard or slouch.
-Get a mouse that comfortably fits within your hand. When your hand covers the mouse(with your hand resting on the outer-most heel of the hand) you should be able to navigate the screen by moving it in a circular motion and never moving your wrist's position. The buttons should be easy to click at all times. This not only helps reduce strain in the hand but allows the speed of data access to increase.
-Stop as soon as strain is felt, alleviate the pain with movement of the muscles, and then continue.

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keyboard ergonomics
by mogelsberg / June 18, 2005 12:36 AM PDT

As an Occupational Therapist, I do many worksite evaluations for people with repetitive stress injuries (RSI) from working on computers. I want to make one thing clear: there is no one quick fix that will work for every person. In fact, what ergonomics means is "fitting the work to the worker", not fitting the worker to the work. Every person is built differently and has symptoms related to how their body is working. I would recommend having a professional with medical knowledge on how the body works come to your place of business and help you set your station up to best fit your body and how you work. Some basic rules are: 1) the monitor should be placed directly in front of you, not off in a corner. 2) the top of the screen (not the monitor) should be at eye level. If you wear bifocals, lower it even more so you're not tilting your head up. 3)Have a good supporting chair. Now, I don't usually recommend chairs with arms unless they are fully adjustable both up and down and in and out, because they restrict the arms and shoulders and muscles too much. 4)Posture is very important. Always sit up straight with your weight supported over the pelvis. 5) Arms should hang relaxed straight down from the shoulders, lift your elbows to about 90 degrees and where your fingers are, that is where your home row on the keyboard should be. 6) Feet should be flat on the ground to support your lower back. 7) Keyboard tray should be adjustable and able to tilt DOWN, not up, in order to keep your wrists straight. Cool NEVER place your wrists on the wrist rest while typing, when you're resting in between typing is good. 9) Take stretch breaks, even for only 30 seconds, at least every half hour and if you have symptoms, every 15 minutes. 10) Drink plenty of water.
Those are basic rules for the computer setup, not to mention the horrors of mousing. The best thing to do is have a mouse that will keep your hand in a neutral position which is: wrist straight and palm only slightly turned down (pronated).
Marilyn

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Know when to rest and quit
by ackmondual / June 18, 2005 9:35 AM PDT

I spend alot of time in front of a PC, games, internet, work, etc. I normally take 5 minute breaks every hour or so. When my hands and wrists start feeling wrong and even hurting. That's when i take a break for sure. Around 15 to 30 minutes. If it's more severe, I'll just walk around for 30 minutes (this helps rest my eyes as well). Otherwise, some TV time or fixing dinner is a good way to get away from the PC while being productive.

Another suggestion i heard from a co-worker is to use a trackball mouse instead. U only flick your fingers for this device so it's less strenuous on your wrist.

Yet another device i heard of was to use a "roach" as opposed to a mouse. The "roach" is like a mouse but has a flat top as opposed to the mouse's curvy top. Of course it still has a tail. TAKE NOTE THAT THERE DOESN'T SEEM TO ANY STUDIES THAT SHOWS THIS IS BETTER FOR YOU THOUGH (AT LEAST NONE THAT I COULD FIND), SO PLEASE DO SOME RESEARCH BEFORE TRYING THIS.

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20-20-20-
by Judy Lorenz / June 20, 2005 1:08 AM PDT

I try to follow the 20-20-20 pattern for breaks.

Eyes: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Body: I have arranged my office so that I must get up to get certain things. Takes a bit of time, but makes me move around.

When working: 10 to 20 items completed require a change in position, walk around, do a different chore, etc.

I am fortunate enough to be able to break my tasks down by item and have plenty of different projects going on.

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Approval to send a copy of this posting
by insbiz / June 16, 2005 10:34 PM PDT

I'm an independent insurance broker/agent in NYC. I insure many computer consultants as well as small businesses. I'd like to send a copy of this posting to my clients & friends. Who do I need to communicate with to get the necessary approval?
Thanks

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You could email me. Thanks!
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 17, 2005 12:26 AM PDT

messageboards@cnet.com

Thanks!

-Lee Koo
CNET Community

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Has anyone collated this, it's a great topic...
by H3lpdesk / July 4, 2005 12:25 PM PDT

Sending a doc for a starter...

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Learned the hard way ...
by StarFields / June 16, 2005 10:46 PM PDT

Yes, it's true. More should be done to tell the young 'uns.

I lost my legs during a two year intensive project whereby I was sitting in a chair for up to 20 hours a day. I got traveller's thrombosis and now can't hang my legs down off a normal chair for long enough to make it through a cinema visit without extreme discomfort.

I also have neck, arm and shoulder problems from doing graphics design with a mouse (tiny precise movements, hours and hours on end) so I can't work with a mouse at all now.

I've ruined my health quite literally by doing this stuff and it just crept up on me - don't let it happen to you!

Solutions - there are none. Once you got this stuff, it's done and you can't go back.

Fixes - I use only a touch pad now, and all my computers are now lap tops.

I move around with the lap top and go from sitting on the floor, to sitting in an armchair or on a couch, to standing up.

Wish to God I'd taken note of how uncomfortable my body was earlier.

SFX

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How I now work comfortably at my comuter
by shimsar / June 16, 2005 10:52 PM PDT

Hi
I heard and read about the complaints of people who were nearly crippled from working with computers. I also experienced the sore neck, lower back and shoulder pains when trying to get some work done.. trying to do just a bit more, till the pain was too much. Then decided to do something about it.
First of all I adjusted the height of my computer chair so that my elbows were the same height from the floor as were my keyboard and mouse pad. No more leaning out over to the table top to operate my mouse. But because the area available for my manipulating the mouse was a bit too far away from my center of operations my right shoulder were showing signs of discomfort.. So I added a mouse platform to jut out from the keyboard tray so that now I work my mouse with my right elbow close to my body, bent to 90 degrees. But still had pains where the inside of my wrist was rubbing on the platform edge. Having heard about a "floating wrist pad, I located one and for less than a dollar thought I'd give it a try. The perfect solution. Now with the heel of my right hand resting on the floating pad I manipulate my mouse and suffer no friction pains, no tiredness of the shoulder and we get along just right.
Next I had to do something about my back and neck pains.. So I removed the top of my desk and reattached it further back, giving me a wider gap between the table-top and my keyboard tray, then I sliced off most of the keyboard tray leaving just enough to support the keyboard, prepared an adjustable cantilevered shelf - low down UNDER the table top and transfered my monitor from the top of the table to below.
Now without moving my neck, my eyes take in the monitor and keyboard together and my efficiencey at the computer, without ANY pains at all, is a pleasure.
I haven't done it yet but planned, if neccessary, to attach, to the chair back, two "elbow" rests. NOT arm rests, as they would hamper the placing of my chair at the optimum comfortable distance from the keyboard. However I haven't found it neccessary.
Now I have space on the table top for a scanner, two printers (Laser and color) and extra space for whatever...
The only thing missing now is a water cooler at arm's length.
Shmuel Shimshoni

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floating wrist pad
by mysty1964 / June 17, 2005 12:22 AM PDT

Where can i find this floating wrist pad you mentioned for under a dollar? i would love to try this.

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Floating wrist pad
by shimsar / June 19, 2005 4:09 AM PDT
In reply to: floating wrist pad

I once found a couple of them in a local Dollar store and bought one for myself and one for my daughter.

They were just under $1, having been made in China.
Not the best workmanship but a great help.

I'm sure that regular suppliers would have them, but maybe not at that price.

Whatever, it pays a lot better than going through surgery and the aftermath.

Keep your health, it is irrepkaceable...
Shmuel (shimsar)

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Floating mouse pad - more info
by shimsar / June 19, 2005 4:23 AM PDT
In reply to: floating wrist pad

After i sent out the last message I checked out Ebay looking for "mouse pad" they have one going for $0.49 with just a bit over 4 hours to go.
It pays to look it up.
Shmuel

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Computer related injuries
by Linda Rahmer / June 16, 2005 10:52 PM PDT

I just wanted to share what has worked for me.

I have been working on computers since 1989. Around 1993 I developed some buzzing sensation in the wrist area. I found that chiropractic adjustments and sublingual vitamin b worked until I sustained a rotator cuff (frozen shoulder) injury from all the tennis I play.

I went for physical therapy for this injury, got total use of both arms back and have been able to maintain this because I was put on a weight-lifting program. To this day (this happened almost two years ago) I no longer get that buzzing up and down the arms. I can sit in front of my computer from 8am until 11pm at night (this is with breaks every 20 minutes) with NO PROBLEMS at all.

I feel that as long as I get my adjustments and lift my weights this can work for a very long time. I have NO PAIN or discomfort with my arms at all, and like I said,I sit in front of the computer all day and all night.

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where's the MS Natural keyboard?
by Jim Johnson / June 16, 2005 11:05 PM PDT

With my right hand going numb, I switched to the Microsoft Natural keyboard and a keyboard drawer at the right height several years ago. 20 minutes of practice, and I've never considered any other keyboard layout design.

It is now nearly impossible to find the original Natural key layout. Microsoft has only a couple models in production, and they reduced the size of the F function keys and especially - mucked up the center bank of cursor movement keys to squeeze in various other specialized keys. Trying to find these few new models on retailer's shelves where you may be able to run your fingers through the keys is even more difficult.

I'm sure the reason is based on actual sales of these keyboards. Too bad more people haven't figured out the value of this keyboard design. Most people type on the $3 throw away that comes bundled with most new computers, then wonder why they have problems.

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natural is the way to go !!!
by momule / June 17, 2005 3:12 AM PDT

I SO totally agree with the sentiment about the "natural keyboard" configuration. It took me a couple weeks to get used to not squeezing my elbows at my sides and then just relaxing (assuming the keyboard is at the right height of course) but once I did so it was like a gift... keyboarding became easy, my back quit hurting, and I even picked up some WPM while typing. I HIGHLY recommend this keyboard setup !!!!!

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A simple technique to help
by ScottBennyhoff / June 16, 2005 11:11 PM PDT

While this may not work for everyone, a simple way to cut down on one problem is to change the hand you use to control the mouse. I use one hand at work, the other at home. I used to have pains in my dominant hand and arm, but since using this technique the pain has gone. Its hardly a perfect answer, but anyone with pain from using a mouse should at least try it.

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Ergonomic Mouse platform
by lkstew99 / June 16, 2005 11:24 PM PDT

For those people who primarily use a mouse while sitting in front of the computer, let me recommend a product for you to try. It's called a MegaMouse LaunchPad. It's described and can be ordered from this page...

http://snipurl.com/fncn

If you are comfortable with your arm resting on the arm of your computer chair then this tray might just be the answer. It's an inexpensive item to try.

Larry Stewart
Ottawa, Canada

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computer injuries
by ncwriter / June 16, 2005 11:25 PM PDT

One of the major injuries of computer related injuries is poor posture in front of the computer. A great article is found at http://www.bupa.co.uk/health_information/html/healthy_living/health_in_news/neck.html#5 and is written by members of the Osteopathic Information Service, the International Chiropractors Association and the Society of the Alexander Technique (that's a technique used by the massage industry). I am a writer and occasionally publish a newsletter; recently I published one in which I used a diagram of a woman at a computer and some points to remember about posture. If the publishers of Cnet would write lshetzer@isp.com, I'll send it to them to publish in their newsletter.

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Just an observation
by dmalcolm / June 16, 2005 11:30 PM PDT

In all the messages I read here I didn't any mention of just plain old exercise. I do believe that computer work stations need to be ergonomically sound. However, I also suspect the important things to remember is regular breaks and some form of whole body exercise. I am 62 and I've been working with computers for 30 years. I am not a pro athlete. Just your average somewhat overweight old guy. But I do take frequent breaks from the keyboard and outside of work I exercise. Mostly walking and stretching with some strength training. Outside of some arthritis in my carpal/meta-carpel joints I have no pain or detectable repeditive stress injury. Interestingly the most arthritis pain comes from the thumb joint that gets used the least (the carpal/meta-carpal joint is the first hand to thumb interface joint).

Dan Malcolm
COG ( Certified Old Guy )

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carptunnel from repetive use
by hercon / June 16, 2005 11:31 PM PDT

very good answers .but this is a medical problem .
immune system .swolen /infected rist area .
i challange all to try this .
salmon oil salmon oil only not fish it will not work .
start 3 cap per day ,perfered way is at night you can try day but most don`t like the taste.
you can add 3 more if 3 does not work .
add some cod liver oil ,i use 3 also
keep uping dose of samon oil till pain goes away then you can discontinue till pain starts back .
you may like to add some vit e to add protection of the oils you are using ,they all support each other.
this realy does work .the best antiinflaitory i have ever found ,some have avoided surgery this way ,.of course if you like surgery have it done ,idont like the knives used to correct the problem .
moto keep it simple god knows best use food if at all posible . ??? call herman at 618-439-3398 leave message if meed be i`ll call you back any thing to help.
a friend
herman tiberend

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PREVENT CARPUL TUNNEL
by j-bledsoe / June 16, 2005 11:54 PM PDT

While working at a chicken packing plant for a short period of time I learned one very valuable lesson from my supervisor. After hanging bare naked chickens on shackles for 12 hours straight I had the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life in my wrist and hands. It reminded me of how my hands and wrist hurt after being on my computer for hours on end, only much more severe. The super told me that every night before I went to bed that if I would do this stretching exercise for my hands and wrist that I would not have the pain anymore. So I tried doing just what he said, he hurt like he** the first couple of times but it did indeed work. All the pain disappeared after a few days and I have never had problems since. If my hands or wrist start bothering me after being on my computer (back at a job doing computer work 8 hours a day plus hometime) I just do the simple exercise for a few days and the pain subsides. The problem with hand and wrist related injuries is the repetitive nature of typing and mouse use, the exercise stretches the tendons and muscles in the opposite direction releasing the tension you have stored up in them. If you are a constant user it would be wise to do them nightly.
Place your hands together palms touching as if in the praying position. Then while keeping your fingers touching the fingers on the other hand slowly pull the palms away from each other, keeping the fingers in place, it will push the fingers against each other and you will feel the strain in your wrist and throughout your hands as you slowly place more and more pressure pushing the fingers portion only of your hands against each other, press as hard as you can and hold for a count of 10, then release and relax your hands, repeat a couple of times each night until the pain is gone. It's so simple and it really really works wonders.
Hope this helps and no surgery!!!
Janette

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