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     Workstation Health and Fitness Solutions

Repetitive Strain Injury is now a major industrial disease affecting millions of people around the world. It includes conditions such as carpel tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis and tendinitis -- known as occupational overuse syndrome, computer related injuries, or cumulative trauma disorders. Often the positioning and layout of WORKSTATIONS and computer equipment can greatly affect our health and safety.

Good posture is essential to avoid repetitive strain injury and other computer related injuries. Well designed workstation ergonomics can help in MAINTAINING a good posture:
  • Make sure that you can reach the keyboard with your WRISTS as flat as possible (not twisted up or down) and straight (not twisted left or right).

  • Make sure that your ELBOW angle is 90 degrees or more to avoid nerve compression at the elbow.

  • Make sure that your upper arm and elbow are as CLOSET to the body and as relaxed as possible for mouse use -- avoid overreaching.

  • Make sure that you sit back in the chair and that you have good back SUPPORT -- especially lumber support.

  • Make sure that your FEET are flat on the floor. Use a foot rest if necessary.

  • Make sure that your head and NECK are as straight as possible.

  • Make sure that you are RELAXED. Forcing yourself to sit up straight can sometimes introduce unhealthy tensions in the back muscles.

  • Make sure that items you use all the time are within easy arm's REACH. The less bending, squatting, stretching, twisting, and reaching you have to do, the less likely you are to suffer an injury.

There are quite a few ergonomically designed keyboards and mice available. Most of these keyboards split the keys into two PANELS -- one for each hand -- and angles each panel so that the hands sit naturally on the keyboard, rather than requiring them to be twisted into an unnatural position which is the case with normal keyboards. Many mice are now designed to fit neatly into either hand, and can often have a scrolling wheel, which can make scrolling through documents easier and less stressful than using scroll bars. These ergonomic devices are generally more expensive than standard designs, but can be well worth the investment.

Research has shown that using a mouse is a significant cause of repetitive strain injury. Especially if the mouse is located at the same level and to the side of the keyboard -- it's usual location. This requires EXTENDING your arm which introduces significant tensions and stresses in your arm, shoulder and neck. The best position for your mouse is on a RAISED platform slightly above the numeric keypad on your computer. Additionally, you can swap the primary and secondary mouse buttons (the left and right buttons), to change the mouse from being right handed to left handed. Using your left hand -- or right hand if you are left handed -- can take some getting used to, but can be very helpful if you are suffering from any aches and pains in one hand. Regularly alternating between left and right hands can also give your arms and hands a rest, thus minimizing the risk of developing any overuse condition.

You should take frequent "eye breaks" -- staring at a computer monitor for long periods causes you to blink less often, resulting in dryer eyes. Every 10 to 15 minutes you should look away from your monitor, blink your eyes rapidly for a few seconds, and focus on something at a DISTANCE to relax the muscles inside the eye. You should also take regular short breaks -- for 5 minutes or more, every hour or so -- to WALK around. Maybe go for a coffee or a short walk around the office, and you should take a long break every two or three hours -- for at least 15 minutes, or preferably 30 minutes to an hour. Exactly how long and how frequent your breaks are depends on your own personal preferences and working environment.

Regular stretching is an essential part of repetitive strain injury prevention and recovery. Remember that your body is not DESIGNED to be sat at a desk for 8 hours a day clicking a mouse. Respect your body and give it the movement and range of motion it normally expects.


Gerard Bulger is a part of the company which creates Stress Buster the automated background program that monitors peoples computer usage and indicates when breaks should be taken to help alleviate RSI. Visit his website at www.threadbuilder.co.uk .

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