Workplace Ergonomics – Does a mouse gel pad really help in preventing RSI and avoid hands and wrist pain?
Until recently, whenever you’d go to the doctor complaining about aches in your wrist due to using a mouse, probably the only advice you got was – Use a gel pad for your mouse! And indeed, for the longest time this was the most popular solution, if not a highly effective one
Today, most ergonomics professionals agree that the mouse gel pad is not the ideal solution, and is certainly not the only solution! The pad is but one of many solutions, and each case should be examined individually, preferably through ergonomic consultation.
Supporting your wrist by a mouse gel pad has several disadvantages:
- The support fixes your hand, so that all mouse movements are performed by your wrist, creating a constant stress on a small group of muscles, that might lead to damages and aches.
- If the supporting pad is not soft enough, it might create a pressure point on the wrist, right at the carpal tunnel – an extremely sensitive spot.
- And when the support is too elevated (a problem common in several designs), it might force the wrist to “break” and fixate it on a faulty working posture.
So – is it time to throw the old gel pad ? Before you toss it away, please pause and note – this kind of support is actually beneficial for a certain percentage people – those that have an arch-like structure in the part that connects the hand to the forearm, and using the pad to support it might help them while working with a mouse.
So, what else can you do if your hand aches?
- Make sure your entire workstation is ergonomically organized. The best way is hiring an ergonomics specialist – go into the link for correct posture and sitting instructions.
- Restore your hand using exercises for strength and flexibility – click here to go to a list of recommended exercises.
- Plunge your hand into some cold water or use some ice to cool your hand at the end of your work session.
- Consider choosing a vertical ergonomic mouse – it improves your hand posture, prevents your shoulder from the uncomfortable twist it has to perform for using a regular mouse, and makes it easy for your shoulder – elbow – wrist and hand to work together.
Everybody talks about the ipad as the hottest thing in the market, but no one mentioned its ergonomics; here is an article that may undermine the good reviews.
Wellness programs: Companies expand wellness programs to rein in health care costs – chicagotribune.com
Opening our mouths in a wide yawn while staring at the computer screen. Does that sound familiar to you? Don’t be ashamed, you’re in good company. This is a phenomenon almost each and everyone of us experiences. It’s a bit uncomfortable when others at work, and worse even, our boss, stares at us yawning. So, What causes yawning and how can we prevent it?
There are many theories that try to explain why do we yawn, for example:
Yawning is related to boredom, fatigue, discomfort, crowded areas, lack of fresh air etc.
Yawning is intended to increase oxygen delivery to the brain.
Yawn is designed to cool the brain and make us stay awake.
But the yawning phenomenon is actually related to a bunch of other reasons, such as: poor sleeping quality, sleep deprivation (lack of sleeping hours), nutrition, lighting, ventilation, air conditioning etc.
I would like to introduce another, mostly unknown, reason – those pertaining to ergonomics – namely, not implementing the right ergonomic rules.
As an ergonomic consultant I run into a lot of computer users, who simply cannot stop yawning. I’m certain that a study looking into the relation of yawn frequency to work productivity level will uncover some interesting findings.
One of the most important goals of an ergonomic consultant is to make employees feel more comfortable in their working station. Correct work station arrangement and spacing plus stretching exercises can certainly improve employees feeling, reducing yawns and improving productivity.
So, dear employers, if you’re looking to increase the work productivity you are getting from your employees, you should invest in ergonomic consulting, make sure you have spacious work stations, consult with your ergonomics specialist on lighting and air conditioning.
The benefit you would reap will offset immensely any cost you pay.
More and more doctors recommend that you use the Wii gaming console as a tool for physical exercise and up keep of a healthy lifestyle.Does this idea have merits? I’m not so sure.In many homes today, computers and televisions are used as the parents babysitter and lifesaver. When kids get bored, it is just too easy to tell them to go watch TV or play on the computer.On the other hand, many parents are becoming aware of the physical deterioration caused by prolonged sitting in front of a computer or television and their conscience is working overtime!However, recently it seemed a solution to this quandary has been found. Parents talk about it enthusiastically – “I bought the kids a Wii console and we are really pleased, it’s a win win situation – the kids are absorbed into this new activity and are busy and quiet, plus they’re actually physically active in a way even doctors recommend”.I, for one, did not buy my children the Wii, and surprisingly, they’ve never asked me to do so.The truth to be told is that my children love real life activity, like riding a bike outside, playing tennis on a real tennis court, they enjoy basketball and soccer, playing catch with their friends… generally, they prefer being outside rather than inside the house.In my opinion, children playing Wii get too used to the convenience of home, to the sweetened drinks and sweets accompanying play time. They lose the ability to orient themselves in space, they lose range of motion, physical interaction and physical contact gained in playing with other children. They miss out on learning and improving the different timing perception of ball delivery, kick, and body balance acquired when playing outside, and suffer a loss of the sensory capability acquired outside the home. Yes, even the ability of dealing with the elements and some inclement weather is lost to them.
I agree that there are some health benefits to playing Wii but they can not be at all compared favorably to games held in the open, fresh air outside. In fact, the most dangerous thing is that those games become a permanent substitute for real life active games and supply us parents with the illusion that we can, in good conscience, allow our children to sit at the computer again.
Have you suffered pains in the shoulder girdle and the lower back while working on a computer? Chances are that these pains are due to a lack of support for your forearms during typing.
Ergonomics experts differ in regard to this issue and their approaches fall into several categories.
The purpose of this post is to present the advantages and disadvantages of the various approaches in an objective way, and let each one of you decide which approach is most suitable for him or her.
1. Floating – the “pianist” approach – The palms float over the keyboard: This approach argues that there’s no need to support the forearms, as the shoulders should be relaxed and simulate piano playing. The keyboard is located in the front part of the table and the mouse is in line with the keyboard.
Advantages – There’s no need to put the forearms on the chair’s armrests, on the table or on a padded surface. The relaxation is a product of gravitation and it enables the joints to be free of load.
Disadvantages – A) The keyboard has to be situated in a very low location, otherwise the shoulders cannot relax. B) The relaxed shoulders posture requires very high awareness. C) A low keyboard creates a disturbance to the legs.
2. Using the table to support the forearms – This approach recommends putting the forearms on the table, while locating the keyboard on the back part of the table and the mouse in line with the keyboard.
Advantages – A) When the user puts his or her forearms on a wide surface, his or her shoulders girdles are fully supported and a neutral posture of the palms becomes natural. B) Users can adjust themselves to this method simply and easily. C) The method is particularly suitable for corner tables and / or tables with an ergonomic niche.
Disadvantages – A) Laying the forearms on narrow tables (less than 60cm in depth) is impossible. B) A sharp table rim might strongly disturb the ability to properly lay the forearms on the table. C) In straight tables, laying the forearms forces the user to extend the forearms further, an extension which creates a certain load on the shoulders girdles. D. In order to lay the forearms on the table, the user must sit in the right height, to ensure the shoulders are relaxed. The user will also have to move with the chair closer to the table, which sometimes results in the armrests bumping into the table. E. Laying the forearms on a hard surface generates a feeling of discomfort and sometime results in an inflammation in the elbow area.
3. Supporting the forearms on the chair’s armrests – In this method, the forearms are laid over the chair’s armrests, the keyboard is located near the table rim and the mouse is in line with the keyboard.
Advantages – A) Correct anatomical posture of the shoulders. B) The method is suitable for straight tables with narrow depth.
Disadvantages – A) In case the chair’s armrests are not suitable to the width of the shoulders, it is impossible to implement this method during typing. B) In case the armrests are narrow, not adjustable and not padded, this method cannot be implemented.
4. Laying the forearms on a padded surface which connects to the table – In this method, the forearms are laid on a padded surface with an ergonomic niche which is located on the table. The keyboard is located in the front part of the table and the mouse is in line with the keyboard.
Advantages – A) Laying the forearms on a padded surface is pleasant and neutralizes pressure points. B) The round shape of the surface leads to a relaxed and optimal posture of the shoulders. C) The padded surface creates a unified and correct sitting standard. D) The size of the surface enables every user to find the typing position which is most suitable for his or her body and shoulders width. E) There is no need to move with the chair under the table, and have the armrests bump into the table. F) This method is very suitable for people with a big belly or pregnant women. G) The method is very suitable for typing tasks. H) Very suitable for narrow tables. I) The method enables users to upgrade non-ergonomic environments. J) The board can be delivered from one table to another in an easy way.
Disadvantages – A) The method forces the user to sit in a high position in order to create a relaxed shoulders posture (which sometimes requires the use of a foot rest). B) The surface on the table might disturb PC users who use folders and paper documents on a frequent basis.
Deciding on the desired approach depends on the work surface, the type of work, the type of the ergonomic accessories in the work environment and the computer user’s physical characteristics.
Nevertheless, every approach requires a correct choice in each one of the following aspects: the location of the keyboard and the mouse, the height of the sitting position, the selection of the ergonomic accessories for the workstation and the guidance of an ergonomic consultant.
In practice, work places do not allow computer users to decide on the suitable approach, due to two main reasons: A) Lack of ergonomic awareness and guidance. B) Standard equipment which has been selected in a random way, without any ergonomic planning.
My hope is that at least home PC users will know how to implement the right choice and that decision makers in organizations will consult an ergonomic advisor when they plan the work environment.
Combining ergonomic planning with the right guidance and equipment will not only save the organization unnecessary expenses on unsuitable equipment. The organization will eventually benefit from a satisfied worker, who is more productive and is less susceptible to orthopedic injuries.
An organization which will be prudent enough to integrate ergonomic aspects into its considerations will sharply reduce instances of workers’ absence as a result of orthopedic injuries, such as lower back pains, neck sprains, and inflammations in the palms. The overall economic calculation will drive the organization to understand the very short time frame in which the initial cost of ergonomics returns itself and the fact that in the long run, ergonomics saves significant amount of money for the organization and strengthens its image in the eyes of employees and customers alike.
The following ergonomic tips list is the result of extensive fieldwork conducted with thousands of computer users. Following these tips carefully can help prevent severe orthopedic problems and provide an immediate relief from existing pains.
1. When sitting in front of a computer screen, the most important thing (and one unknown by most) is providing support for the forearms while typing and using a mouse. Sadly, most computer users tend to type with their arms hanging in the air without support. This creates a massive load on the shoulder belt and lower back.
2. The solution? Supporting your forearms by resting them on the armrests or on the desk, or using a padded forearms support device attached to the table.
3. How to position the forearms should be decided in accordance with existing equipment. If the chair arms are uncomfortable to use, not adjustable and padded, do not use them. If your desk is narrow and doesn’t allow you to place your entire forearms comfortably, do not place them on the desk. In such cases, the best solution is putting the forearms on a wide padded surface that connects to the desk.
4. Correct sitting height is critical. Make sure your shoulder belt is relaxed when resting your forearms. Sitting at the wrong height causes you to lift or bend your shoulders and puts a significant burden on the shoulder belt.
5. Be sure to work with the screen directly in front of you, a screen located sideways might quickly cause a cervical disc herniation.
6. A computer screen positioned too high might cause severe neck problems. Make sure the upper frame of the screen is at eye level.
7. Free leg space to allow for comfortable sitting – relocate any accessories (such as computer box, wastebasket, bags) located where your legs are supposed to be.
8. Using a keyboard drawer is not recommended. Keyboard drawers get in the way of your legs and afford no support for your forearms.
9. Be sure not to place any accessory where it can interfere with the mouse movement. Moving the mouse should be a large scope movement, performed from the shoulder joint, and not a small wrist movement.
10. Check your vision often. Impaired vision causes neck distortions and might build enormous pressures on the neck as a compensation for the inability to see well.
11. It’s recommended to place the phone on the opposite side of the typing and mouse moving hand.
12. It is recommended to maintain a sitting posture that is as dynamic and symmetrical as possible, i.e. without a back rest, crossing legs once on the left and once on the right, sitting on a fitness ball or a knees stool.
13. Make sure the computer screen, keyboard and mouse’s cables are long enough and as loose as possible, so you can position them according to your need. Many computer users arrange their work station in accordance with existing constraints, without even trying to correct the problem.
14. Choose a desk with a lot of leg space, and as little leg interference or lower storage as possible. Your desk should allow for a comfortable sitting posture and the possibility of performing stretching exercises while working.
Migraines, shoulder pains, herniated discs, eye strain… these are just some of the symptoms of what can easily be considered as the Millennium’s syndrome – “Computer pains”.
Suffer some of those? No need to rush to the medicine cabinet, make an appointment with the family doctor or see your physical therapist!
Sometimes even minor adjustments to your workstation can do wonders – eradicate your pain and save you money.
So here’s the Complete Guide to Ergonomics!
Elevated computer screen – sitting for hours in front of an elevated computer screen puts a lot of strain on the neck vertebrae – an effort that causes ongoing pain. The neck is a sensitive area and neck pain can radiate to other body parts such as shoulders, elbows, hands and wrists. Lessening the pressure on neck muscles may also resolve apparently unconnected body aches.
Solution: The computer screen should be placed at eye level and lower to allow the neck vertebrae to be in neutral posture and rest.
Lateral posture – At many companies I see computer screens located not straight in front of the user but sideways, often due to the need to communicate with clients face to face, or in order to make room on the crowded desk. Working in a lateral posture for long periods of time, sometimes for many hours, puts an enormous amount of strain and pressure on the neck vertebrae. This can cause headaches, migraines and pain in other parts of the body. Angled screens and lateral postures put a constant load of strain on the spine and cause the body to be organized unnaturally with every part turned in a different direction.
Solution: The best solution for such a situation is placing the computer screen directly in front of the user whenever possible, moving it aside when the user has to serve clients. This can be achieved by using a multi-directional arm that allows for shifting the screen easily from one position to the other when necessary.
Screen distance – too close or too far – a small work area, sight problems, or a smallish desk may result in a computer screen placed too close to the user, causing eye damage and headaches.
On the other hand, placing the screen too far away strains the eyes and causes fatigue, irritability and disquiet.
Solution: the computer screen should be positioned at a distance of 3 times the screen diagonal, or more simply, sitting at a straight-arm distance from the center of the screen.
Prolonged Sitting - By itself, prolonged sitting can cause physical degeneration as well as a variety of back, shoulders and neck problems. Sitting for long stretches of time without movement compresses the vertebrae, which in turn exert pressure on the nerves. The muscles surrounding the vertebrae suffer from degeneration and blood flow is also impaired.
Solution: It is recommended to change posture occasionally, stand up and stretch out at least once every half an hour, and incorporate into your working hours some sort of physical activity that is compatible with working in front of a computer. The most recommended exercises are strengthening the abdomen and back muscles and performing back rotations.
The Correct Sitting Posture Myth – there is a myth that you should sit with your upper body straight up at 90 degrees toward the feet. This is a serious mistake. Actually it’s much better to sit with a 100 to 110 degrees angle – some sort of leaning back or reclining. The reason for that is that when you sit at 90 degrees, your entire upper body weight is exerted directly on your lower back vertebrae. Reclining at 100 to 110 degrees decreases significantly the pressure on the vertebrae.
And the best solution of all:
Physical awareness – the most effective tool in preventing ergonomic damages is the development of physical awareness. Developing such an awareness under professional guidance can help purchasing cost effective equipment suited to users’ needs, and may improve the worker’s productivity , prevent health issues, increase the number of productive working hours and promote the correct usage of existing human engineering.