The best way to support the forearms during typing

By gildalit


ergonomic consultation

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.

To summarize:

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.

Computer Pains – and their Solutions

By gildalit

Computer Pains

bad ergonomics

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.

ergonomic Solution

good ergonomics

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.

Solution: recline!

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.

categoriaergonomics setting commento6 Comments dataDecember 22nd, 2009
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Standardization – an Ergonomic Working Environment at the Office

By gildalit

ergonomic desk 1ergonomic desk

One of the first things I have noticed as an ergonomic advisor was the lack of uniformity and total absence of any standardization of the working environments at offices and working places.

This is mainly evident when you look at the equipment being used – a haphazard mix of old and new appliances, furniture items and ergonomic equipment. In many offices you can find a medley of different desks and chairs even in a single working space.

How would such a situation be created? There are a ton of different reasons.

For example, many working places might replace malfunctioning or broken equipment, but anything that is still functional gets left as it was.

Another reason could be replacing a specific item or equipment, only for those employees who used some sort of leverage to get their equipment renewed. And sometimes, it’s all about ranks – new and improved equipment is bought for the higher rank workers of the organization, but not for the lower ranks.

Additional reasons might be different decisions reached by different purchasing officers, a decision made by the operational vice president, a change in the budget allocated to acquisition, etc.

What is more clear is that this lack of uniformity can and does create an array of problems:

  1. Those workers left to work with outdated equipment suffer discomfort and pains;
  2. Each working station requires different ergonomic accessories  (which ofcourse entails a higher monetary expenditure);
  3. It is impossible to offer a uniform ergonomic guidance to all workers;
  4. Planning the arrangement of different work stations in one working space is complex and unecessarily problematic;
  5. It is a situation which could create resentment among workers and lead to demands for ergonomic equipment;
  6. And of course this is a situation which could damage the organization’s public image.

Using solid ergonomic advise and planning when getting ready to purchase ergonomic equipment in the early stages of building work stations is a critical step. Good ergonomic advice will allow the organization to create a healthy, ergonomic and uniform work environment.

categoriaergonomics setting commento3 Comments dataDecember 9th, 2009
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