What are some ergonomic solutions for carpal tunnel relief?

Ergonomics is defined as “The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.”

Effective use of ergonomics will reduce the risk of acquiring a musculoskeletal system disorder. The musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, cartilage, joints, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue, which give us the ability to move. Moving with improper form and posture over an extended period of time can strain the musculoskeletal system and lead to what is called repetitive motion injuries.

The goal is to keep the posture aligned so that you do not strain during repetitive motion activities. There is no single correct posture, because every body is different. You will need to customize the equipment to fit your natural physique.

Correct ergonomic solutions will reduce risk of strain to the following areas of the body:-

-Eyes
-Head
-Neck
-Shoulders
-Elbow
-Back
-Hands and Wrists
-Hips
-Ankles
-Feet

When sitting at your workstations, keep in mind the following objectives:

  • The top of you monitor should be at or just below eye level.
  • Your head and neck should be balanced and in line with your torso.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed in order to reduce the risk of strain.
  • Your elbows should be close to the body and supported.
  • Support your lower lumber area of the back.
  • There should be adequate room for your keyboard and mouse.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take frequent breaks, to reduce the amount of repetitive motion that can put you at risk.
  • Sit up straight with your spine against the back of the chair.
  • Remember to breathe: inhale and exhale deeply.
  • Rotate your head around gently to reduce tension in your neck area.
  • Try not to slam the keys when you type. Key lightly.ergonomically correct keyboard
  • Stretch, especially you fingers, wrist, and arms to increase circulation.
  • Restore circulation and exercise wrist muscles-rotate your wrist in a circle for approximately two minutes several times per day.
  • Be aware of your posture:
    • Thighs should be parallel to the floor.
    • Lower legs should be perpendicular to floor.
    • Wrists and hands should be straight.
    • Forearms, wrists, and hands should be straight and in-line.
    • Head, neck, and trunk should be faced forward, not twisted.

Consider the following solutions to help you become ergonomically correct:

  • Keyboard- proper selection of keyboard should reduce strain and awkward postures. Consider the following when it comes to keyboards:
    • Keyboard placement (distance and height)-A keyboard or mouse that is too close or too far away may cause awkward postures such as reaching with the arms, leaning forward with the torso. Place the keyboard directly in front of you at a distance that allows your elbows to stay close to your body with your forearms approximately parallel with the floor. Keyboards that are too high or too low can lead to awkward wrist, arm, and shoulder postures.
    • Keypad- There are alternative left hand keyboards which have the keypad permanently affixed to the left side of the keyboard. However, if workers share a computer, standalone keyboards will allow the user to switch positions for either left or right hand use.
    • Ergonomic keyboard- A v-shaped keyboard that is shaped according to the natural human form when typing. It may take some getting used to, but is well worth it in the long run.
    • Mouse pad with wrist support- Wrist supports should be padded and free of sharp edges to provide the most optimal support. Ideally, the mouse should be placed next to and on the same level as the keyboard.
    • Ergonomic chair- A proper chair can reduce muscle strain, shoulder, back, neck, and leg discomfort.  A backrest can decrease pressure on your back, and increase comfort. A seat cushion can help evenly distribute body weight. Armrests should support both forearms not interfere with movement.
    • Tables- limited space on the work table may cause users to place components in undesirable positions, which may lead to awkward postures as you reach for a pointer/mouse or look at a monitor that is placed to the side.
    • Monitor- Monitor distance should allow you to read the screen without leaning your head, neck or trunk forward/backward. Distance should be directly in front of you so you don’t have to twist your head or neck. Placing it in an appropriate position helps reduce awkward postures and overhead glare.
    • Adjustable keyboard trays- These should hold the keyboard at a comfortable angle that supports a natural wrist position.
    • Adjustable foot rest- Feet should rest flat on the floor and be supported by a stable foot rest. An ergonomic footrest can ease leg problems, decrease the risk of back strain, help you maintain correct posture, and increase circulation to your legs and feet.
    • Document holder-An in-line document holder can be positioned directly beneath the monitor, especially if you need to frequently write on the document. Proper positioning of a document holder can increase productivity and reduce risk of discomfort, awkward postures, fatigue, and headaches.  If used, a document holder should be stable and large enough to hold documents.
    • Telephone headset – If you spend a lot of time on the phone, a headset can reduce the risk of assuming an awkward position, by helping you keep your head upright and your shoulders relaxed.
    • Lighting- Ensure that area lighting is not too bright. Bright lights shining on the screen will wash out images. Direct light (from windows or overhead lighting) can cause a glare making it difficult to see. Both instances can cause strain and eye fatigue.
    • Laptops- The points discussed above should also apply to laptops.  Consider using separate keyboards that allow you to raise the laptop screen and maintain good posture of the hands, arms and shoulders.

On a final note, eliminating the risk of repetitive motion injuries should be seen as a holistic approach. If you have not already done so, also consider joining a gym. By exercising, you can shed extra pounds, increase flexibility, and reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries.