What are computer ergonomics? Computer ergonomics is a term that encompasses all the methods of using a computer with good ergonomics, or movements and posture. Ergonomics is the study of how workers relate to their working environment. And, for many people, their computer is the most used tool at their workstation. Poor ergonomics or a bad structural relationship with your computer can put you at risk of muscle tension, pain, and injury. Working at a computer with poor posture puts extra strain on essential muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Over time this may contribute to injuries such as tendonitis or inflamed tendons in the hand, arm, or shoulder. So how do you adjust your ergonomics with your computer so that you can do the work you need to without risking injury? You change your relationship with your computer with good computer ergonomics.
What is Computer Ergonomics?
While ergonomics means studying workers and their environment, it has become a catch-all term for a healthy relationship with the working environment. Computer ergonomics relates to workers and how they use their computers, whether for good or ill. What is computer ergonomics? It’s the ways and methods for coming into physical, structural alignment while working at a computer. Computer ergonomics includes how your computer is positioned, its keyboard and mouse set up, the lighting you’re working under, your chair, and your desk.
Why is Computer Ergonomics Important?
- Prevents eye strain.
If you or your computer screen are in the wrong position, that can lead to straining your eyes and neck. When your body works overtime to keep your neck in a poor postural position, that can strain your eyes. Or if your screen is too close, far away, or placed below or above eye level, that can also lead to eye strain. Eye strain can lead to headaches, neck and shoulder pain, blurry vision, dry, itching eyes, and the sensation of eye fatigue. Having your seat, desk, and computer monitor properly aligned so that your eye level is two-three inches below your screen can prevent or reduce eye strain and fatigue.
Another computer ergonomic factor is the lighting where you work. Is it too dim? That makes your eyes overwork. If it’s too bright, or if there’s a bad glare, that can hurt your eyes.
- Protects your spine, joints, and muscles.
What is ergonomics in computer usage other than a spectacular way to support the health of your joints? When your posture is aligned or in better alignment, your body is naturally supported in healthy function. This means less strain on parts of your body like your wrists and neck and your whole spine. A healthy spine is a key component of overall health. Poor ergonomics at your computer can lead to overworking specific muscles and joints while in poor postural alignment, which creates added strain. This strain can eventually lead to inflammation and injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Supports overall health.
Poor posture creates less-than-optimal conditions for your internal organs. This is particularly true for the organs in your abdomen. With poor posture, your organs can become compressed or won’t receive enough blood flow. And your breathing might be compromised by poor posture, which restricts the diaphragm which is your breathing muscle.
Tips for Computer Ergonomics
Here’s what you’re going for when practicing good computer ergonomics:
- With your feet on the floor, your spine is in its natural S shape.
- There’s support for your low back, which is gently curved.
- Your thighs are fully supported and parallel to the floor.
- Your elbows are at a right angle and are lying straight on your desk.
- Your head is balanced between your shoulders.
- Your chin is in comfortable position.
- Your eye level is two to three inches below the top of your screen.
- There’s enough light, but not too much.
There are many ways to create good computer ergonomics, even if you can’t change your whole workstation. Even a few small, easy changes can bring a lot of relief to the symptoms of poor computer ergonomics. You’ll improve if you use comfort and good posture as your guide. Here are tips for bringing better computer ergonomics into your life.
- Your chair
Find a comfortable chair, or make your chair more comfortable. The more comfortable your chair is while working, the better ergonomics you’ll have at your computer. Many ergonomic chairs are available, and your workplace might provide one. If a new chair isn’t available, consider cushions or padding. For example, a folded towel can provide low back support.
- Foot support
If your chair is too tall, or you need to raise it, so your arms and shoulder are in alignment on your desk, then a foot wedge or footrest is an excellent solution for keeping your thighs parallel to the ground. It doesn’t need to be fancy; try folding a few towels as a way to raise your feet.
- Elbows and shoulders
When seated, you want your elbows at a right angle and coming straight from your shoulders. You may need to adjust your chair or desk height to make this happen. A cushion can raise you up if you can’t get a new desk or chair. Or, you could use feet rests under your desk to raise it. If your chair has armrests, adjust them so that when your elbows rest on them, your shoulders are relaxed.
Consider an ergonomic keyboard that is split or partially split. Most keyboards force the wrists in and the elbows out, putting pressure on both the wrists and shoulders. You want your arms to be flat on the desk and in a straight line with your shoulders. And these keyboards often come at a tilt, allowing your wrists more comfort while typing. You can also consider wrist support pads instead of a new keyboard.
One final computer ergonomics tip is to take breaks frequently. Allow your body to come back into a natural position. And these are great times to do some beneficial movements to stretch your hands, wrists, and shoulders. Using a computer is part of modern life, and with some adjustments, you will likely be able to work comfortably for as long as you need.