Human Anatomy and Computer Workstation Issues

Exercise and Stretching

Breaks or changes in work tasks coupled with various exercises and stretching can provide you with the time needed for stressed muscles and tendons to recover to their normal state and also help fight injuries that accumulate after intensive, long-term keyboarding work. If you have any pre-existing conditions that you believe could be negatively impacted by these stretches, consult your clinician prior to performing them.

  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, since long sustained stretches produce more relaxation.
  • Breathe slowly and rhythmically during the stretch.
  • Keeping the stretch within comfortable limits to avoid bouncing or jerking, which can injure rather than help muscle tissues.

Eyes and Vision

For most computer users, the monitor screen is the active location where work progress is followed. Like other activities requiring continued focused use of the eyes, reading a monitor screen for hours at a time can cause eye strain. Symptoms of over use include blurred vision, headaches and eye fatigue.

  • Place your monitor in a direct straight line with your keyboard and chair to avoid continually refocusing your eyes. For most people, a distance of 15–30 inches from your eyes to the monitor is ideal.
  • Set your monitor height even with, or slightly lower, than your plane of vision.
  • Adjust the contrast, brightness and color or your monitor to a comfortable level.
  • Electrostatic charges on your monitor screen accumulate dust. Keep your screen clean using a damp cloth or special lens paper to avoid scratching the surface.
  • Use a copy stand or other means to prop written work materials up and as close and even with your monitor screen as possible.
  • Avoid screen glare by facing your monitor away from windows and tilted slightly downward to prevent glare from overhead lights.
  • Take breaks to change the focus of your eyes whenever working at your computer for long periods of time.
  • Even if you don’t use a computer frequently, it is still a good practice to have your vision checked regularly.

Neck and Shoulders

Poor posture, awkward workstation arrangements and non-adjustable seats can all contribute to a sore neck and shoulders.

  • Place your monitor in a direct straight line with your keyboard and chair to avoid twisting and bending when working.
  • Set your monitor height even with, or slightly lower, than your plane of vision.
  • Use a copy stand or other means to prop written work materials up and as close and even with your monitor screen as possible.
  • Arrange your telephone, frequently used reference materials and other important workstation supplies within comfortable reaching distance.
  • Keep your mouse on your keyboard tray or as close to the tray as possible to avoid reaching or stretching for it.
  • Take breaks to change your posture and body position whenever working at your computer for long periods of time.

Back

Most back problems associated with computer workstations are identical to those caused by any activity requiring extended sitting including soreness or stiffness, often in the lower region of the back.

  • Place your monitor in a direct straight line with your keyboard and chair to avoid twisting and bending when working.
  • Good sitting posture will virtually eliminate the possibility of back problems. Achieve good posture by sitting straight in your chair, planting your feet firmly on the floor (or a foot stool if the chair cannot be lowered for any reason) and keeping your lower back firmly supported by the lumbar support of your chair.
  • Take breaks to change your posture and body position whenever working at your computer for long periods of time.

Wrists and Arms

Your hands, wrists and arms do most of the active work at a computer workstation. Repetitive motion injuries to the wrist are among the most common problems associated with all activities that involve extensive use of our hands. These range from occasional soreness or stiffness to the debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome. 

  • Keep your upper arms and forearms at about a 90 degree angle.
  • Keep your forearm, wrist and hand in a straight a line as much as possible. This position, known as the neutral position, is the single most important step you can take to avoid repetitive motion injuries to your wrists.
  • You can achieve the neutral position by either raising or lowering you chair or work surface or by using an adjustable keyboard tray.
  • Keep your mouse on your keyboard tray or as close to the tray as possible to avoid reaching or stretching for it.
  • Use a light touch. Do not bang or smash the keyboard. Use a gentle grasp to hold and manipulate the mouse.
  • Take breaks to change your posture and body position whenever working at your computer for long periods of time.

Legs and Arms

Although your legs and feet are not usually the active elements of computer work, the very nature of sitting for extended periods of time can affect these parts of your anatomy.

  • When sitting, plant your feet, or at least the balls of your feet, firmly onto the floor to help counter balance the forces on your back.
  • If placing your feet directly on the floor means you must sit too low to comfortably type or see the monitor screen, get a foot stool or rest to raise up the floor to your feet.
  • Avoid chairs that have a sharp edge along the front leading edge. Over time, these edges can compress muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels and cause numbness or even pain in your legs or feet.
  • Take periodic breaks and get up out of your chair to exercise inactive muscles and increase blood circulation to your legs and feet.