The Smart Patient's Guide to
Managing Pain in the Workplace

More Ergonomic Workstation Products & Screen Tips

In addition to standing desks, these specially designed products may ease neck, back, and eye strain at the office.

This article was originally published, in part, on SpineUniverse, a sister publication of Practical Pain Management.


Creating a beneficial ergonomic working arrangement is important to protecting your health and preventing or easting potential posture-related pain. In addition to standing desks, there are many computer station products to choose from. A few of the most common ones are highlighted below.


Workstation Products

Ergonomic keyboards:  Most of these are keyboards where the alphanumeric keys are split at an angle. For a non-touch typist this design can be a disaster! The split design only addresses issues of hand ulnar deviation, and research studies show that vertical hand posture (wrist extension) is more important. There is little to no consistent evidence that split-keyboard designs produce substantial postural benefits. For most, a regular keyboard design works just fine if kept in the proper neutral position.

Ergonomic mouses: Many of these mouse designs or alternative input device designs can work well to improve your hand/wrist posture. However, it's important to check that you can use these with your upper arm relaxed and as close to your body as possible. Overreaching to an ergonomic mouse may defeat any benefits of this design.

Wrist rests: These were very popular in the early 2000s, but research studies have yet to demonstrate any substantial benefits for wrist rests. In fact, a wrist rest can actually increas the pressure inside the carpal tunnel by compressing the undersurface of the wrist. Studies by Dr. David Rempel at the University of Berkeley, California, show that pressure applied to the underside of the carpal tunnel is transferred into the tunnel itself via the transverse carpal ligament and that intracarpal pressure doubles with a wrist rest compared with floating the hands over a keyboard. If you choose to use a wrist rest, using one with a broad, flat, firm surface design works best, and rest the heel of your palm on this NOT your wrist.

Try not to rest while you're actually typing, but rest in between bursts of typing movements. Avoid soft and squishy wrist rests because these will contour to your wrist, restrict the freedom of movement of your hands, and encourage more lateral deviation during typing. Look at the surface of a typical wrist rest that's been used and you'll see that it gets eroded away, which means that the user has been sliding their wrists over the surface which also compresses the blood vessels often visible at the wrist. Remember, your hands should be able to glide above the surface of a wrist rest during typing; try to avoid locking them in place on the rest while you type.

Support braces/gloves: There is little to no consistent research evidence that wearing wrist supports during computer use actually helps reduce the risk of injury. If you like wearing a wrist support, make sure that it keeps your hand flat and straight, not bent upwards. There is some evidence that wearing wrist supports at night in bed can help relieve symptoms for those with carpal tunnel syndrome.


Screen Viewing 

No matter the product(s) you choose for your ergonomic workstation, placement of your computer monitor, whether on a traditional desktop or standing desktop, is crucial for maintaining back and neck posture. Here are a few additional tips in that regard.

Place the computer screen directly in front of you, not angled to the left or right. This position helps eliminate too much neck twisting. Use the screen scroll bars to ensure that what is being viewed most is in the center of the monitor rather than at the top or bottom of the screen.

The monitor should be at a comfortable horizontal distance for viewing, which usually is around an arms length (sit back in your chair and raise your arm and your fingers should touch the screen). At this distance, you should be able to see the viewing area of the monitor without making head movements. If text looks too small then either use a larger font or magnify the screen image in the software rather than sitting closer to the monitor.

The monitor height should be placed in a manner that you do not have to tilt your head up or bend your neck down to see it. When seated comfortably, your eyes should be in line with a point on the screen about two to three inches below the top of the monitor casing. We actually see more visual field below the horizon than above this (look down a corridor and you'll see more of the floor than the ceiling), so at this position the user should comfortably be able to see more of the screen. If the monitor is too low, the user will crane their neck forwards, if it's too high they'll tilt their head backward and end up with neck/shoulder pain. Need a visual?  View this infographic for more ergonomic recommendations.

Check your screen quality. Use a good quality computer screen. Make sure that the text characters on your screen look sharp, and that they are a comfortable size (you can change the screen resolution to find a comfortable and clear character size).

Consider bifocals and progressive lens. Even when wearing bifocals or progressive lens, if you sit back in your chair in a reclined posture (with your back at around 110 degrees) that is recommended for good low back health, rather than sitting erect at 90 degrees, and if you slightly tilt the monitor backward and place this at a comfortable height you should be able to see the screen without tilting your head back or craning your neck forwards. Postural problems with bifocals can occur if you sit erect or even hunched forward. Studies have shown that the best position for a computer monitor is for the center of the screen to be at around 17.5 degrees below eye level. Try to align your eyes with the top of the viewing area of the screen, and this should put the center about right geometrically.

Remember, natural changes in vision occur in most people during their early 50s. It's a good idea to periodically have your eyes checked by a qualified professional. If any screen adjustments feel uncomfortable, then change them until the arrangement feels more comfortable or seek further professional help.



Updated on: 02/28/18
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