A Guide to make your workstation work for you instead of against you.

An increasingly large number of the population use computers, spending hours every day staring at a computer screen both at work and for their leisure. A poorly set-up workstation will play a significant role in the development of chronic and acute pain in the back, neck, shoulder and wrist area. Including condition such as sciatica, tendinopathy and carpal tunnel syndrome to only name a few. In this article, you will find the key elements to ensure that your workstation contributes to your wellbeing instead of straining your body.

 Monitor:

The first element to consider is to adjust your screen.

  • The computer screen should be placed at eyes level. To achieve this adjust the screen height so the top of the screen is levelled with your eyebrows and the bottom of the screen is roughly above your hand when having your arms straight in front of you. You can achieve that using simples things, such as books, copying paper or one of the large range of screen stand available on the market nowadays.
  • Then you need to adjust the distance between you and your monitor. A far away monitor will lead to a forward head posture as you’ll repetitively move your head forward to decipher whatever’s on the display causing stiffness in your neck and shoulder. Now if your monitor is too close you will strain eyes and due to the neck flexion, your neck remains in a strenuous position for long hours. A good rule of thumb is to have at about the length of your straight arm between you and the monitor (if the monitor is extremely large leave some more room)
  • Also, consider using the zoom option to adjust the size of the text you are reading with these simple shortcuts: Hold Ctrl then press +/- or hold Ctrl then use the mouse scroll wheel.
  • Now if you are among the millions that work with or use a laptop, you have to adjust it as well. It is simple like for a regular display, raise it to eye level in using whatever you can find: books, copying paper, laptop stand and so on. Unless you are watching a movie or on a plane, do these adjustments. It will straight away improve all the aches and stiffness caused by your old habits. But now the mouse pad and keyboard are beyond reach. So the next step is to purchase a separate set of keyboard and mouse and then adjust them as mentioned below.

 

Keyboard, mouse and writing support:

Now that you are using the correct equipment on all your devices the next step is to make sure they are positioned right:

  • Adjust the height of the mouse and keyboard & writing support so your elbows are approximatively at 90° and your forearms and wrists parallel to the mouse, keyboard and writing pad. To lift these things up you can use a pile of paper, books, or adjust your chair/desk height to reach the maximum comfort of use.
  • Finally avoid reaching, for the mouse and keep your wrist quite straight. Some people found the use of a gel pad or ergonomic equipment useful.
  • If you still refer to paper document at work or in your home, they are usually displayed flat on the desk. Thus bringing your neck in a flexed position for long periods of time, slowly straining it. To prevent this you want to tilt your reading documents above 45° using a copyholder or a paper stand.

These changes will allow your shoulder to be in a rested position as opposed to being elevated, in a forward position and contracted.

Desk set-up.

  • Setting up your desk height can help to adjust your workstation and do some fine tuning, but it’s not a compulsory feature to have to have a great workstation set-up. If your desk can elevate, adjust it for your keyboard, mouse and writing support to be at the correct height. (see the section above)
  • You should avoid adjusting your monitor height only by raising your desk, as your desk set-up will likely end up too high, then you won’t be able to set up your workstation without your chair ending up too high as well.
  • After adjusting your desk height make sure everything is set up as best as possible.

Chair set-up.

Chair setup is a complex and lengthy subject that will be covered in a future post. For the now we are going to cover the essentials element to best set up your workstation.

  • If your feet be too far above the floor, a footrest would be the best a solution to this problem.
  • On the contrary, if your feet are flat on the floor with your knees are above your hips, you want to raise your chair up, so your knees are at least aligned with your hips or at 90°.
  • Most chairs have an armrest that prevents you to get your chair close enough to your desk. In such case either lower them if possible or use a screwdriver to remove them.
  • Also, take regulars break or just stand up and move around ever ½ hour, you can use that time to drink some water for example. This will avoid you some muscle and postural fatigue.

Telephone optimization:

  • If you use a handset all day long you are going to press the key and reach to de phone countless time every day, so bring the telephone as close as possible to the edge of the desk. It will allow you to use the key and pick up the phone without twisting yourself in an awkward position.
  • If you use a mobile phone or landline regularly consider investing into a headset, earphones or wireless equipment (you may need several as the battery life may not last long enough to get you through the day).
  • Finally, do not hold your phone between your shoulder and head.

A final word about us:

At Toward Health as part of our long-term patient management, we investigate their work environment to further examine with them how to best set up their workstation so it begins to benefit them on a daily basis. This is a very quick process we shortly discuss their work environment then after receiving a picture of their workstation we figure out the best solution for it. So if you are in pain give us a call to get your problem sorted as soon as possible.

Carpal tunnel syndrome – Everything you want to know.

The carpal tunnel is a space in the wrist where the flexor tendons pass through to reach the fingers. The Median nerve also goes through this canal, when swelling or tendon thickening occurs the median nerve gets compressed. When this compression occurs you are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.Carpal tunnel syndrome canal
While compression of the median nerve causes the symptoms the root of the problem usually lies elsewhere:
Ligaments, tendons and muscles may thicken. These are the most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Thickening is usually due to wear and tear from repetitive stress and injury.
Pregnancy is another common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. During pregnancy, a woman’s body needs extra blood and fluid to allow the baby to grow and the woman’s body to expand. But this also commonly lead to swelling in the carpal tunnel causing compression of the nerve inside.
Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, fractures and other metabolic disorder lead also commonly cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Typical symptoms carpal tunnel syndromes:
symptoms of carpal tunnel• Numbness and pain in your hand and wrist. This pain can often spread to the forearm and upper arm.
• A tingling sensation in the hand.
• Weakness and a loss of mobility. You may find it difficult to grip things.
Why does the median nerve get compressed within the carpal tunnel?
The space within the carpal tunnel is fix and cannot expand while the others structures within the “tunnel” can expand. Nerves are much softer than most of the other tissues of the human body, so when the other tissues within the carpal tunnel get bigger the median never gets compressed. On top of the compression, when a nerve gets compressed they thicken and get inflamed, thus leading to more pain and compression.
Hydrotherapy can do wonder to alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel symptoms:
– Plunge your hand is cold/ice cold water to up to 10 minutes.
– Place a cold pack over your wrist for 6-7 minutes.
Exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
Gently, stretch and exercise your wrists regularly. This will help increase blood flow and encourage healing. Below you can find some basic exercise that may help you manage your symptoms.
If the movements you are doing are too painful stop doing them as it may worsen the problem.carpal tunnel exercises
1. Wrist Stretch
Stretch your arm out in front of you, with your wrist straight. Gently bend your hand down and backward, using the opposite hand to pull your hand back. Hold for 10 seconds or more.
Return your hand to the starting position and then bend it up and backward, again using the opposite hand to pull your fingers back. Hold for 10 seconds or more.
Repeat both of these exercises on the other hand. Do three sets with each wrist.
2. Finger Stretch
Place your palm on the table and lift your fingers up. Place your other hand across your knuckles at 90º and push down as your bottom hand tries to pull up. Hold for 20 seconds. Swap hands and repeat.
3. Grip Strengthening
Grip a soft stress ball and squeeze it is a slow and controlled way repeat several times.
Be mindful with exercising your wrist while in acute pain, while the right amount and intensity of exercise will speed and support your recovery too much exercise may worsen the problem.