Protecting Hands and Wrists During Computer Use

The majority of the work that we do these days is on some sort of digital device. Starting at a young age, children begin learning to operate personal computers and other small devices. This usage continues and expands as they grow. By adulthood, most people perform most of their work on a desktop or laptop. As often as we type away at a computer, it is imperative to develop good habits that will prevent hand and wrist injuries. Improper mousing and typing can ultimately be as damaging as a fall onto an outstretched hand.

It has been said that computer use is a primary cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, a common wrist condition that can be quite disruptive to daily activities. To be clear, carpal tunnel syndrome is a preventable condition that develops as a result of not overuse but misuse.

Spotting Problem Posture

The body provides concise clues when we are misusing any part of it. As it pertains to computer misuse, the body will let us know something needs to change by sending pain signals. Often, the first sign is soreness and stiffness in the neck or back. This can spread to the shoulders, forearms, wrists, and hands. When inflammation worsens, tingling and numbness may also develop. At the first sign of posture-related physical pains, two things can happen. One is that posture can be evaluated. Now is the time to make changes in how typing and mousing are done. Additionally, pain and inflammation can be decreased with an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.

Wrist and hand pain must be addressed appropriately. Managing pain is far less effective in the long run if proper computer techniques are not developed. Suggested posture includes:

  • Sit upright in front of a computer with the head and torso aligned. The buttocks should be situated at the back of the seat.
  • Computer screens should be at or slightly below eye level approximately 20 inches in front of the face.
  • Desk height should allow hands to be situated slightly below the elbows.
  • When typing, the backs of the wrists should be flat or bent slightly back.
  • Type like a piano player plays, with hands floating above the keys, not resting on the desk (even a gel pad).
  • Hands should be pointed straight at all times when typing, not turned inward or outward from the wrists (like pigeon-toed).
  • The mouse needs to be close enough to the keyboard so that, when used, the elbow does not have to leave the side of the body to reach it.
  • When using the mouse, no pressure should be placed on the wrist.
  • Pay attention to physical cues that posture is incorrect. Adjust accordingly.

Fortunately, hand and wrist injuries due to computer use can be prevented. You just have to know how. If you need help for wrist or hand pain, call (973) 942-1315 to schedule a consultation in one of our New Jersey offices.

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