Ergonomics—Not Just for Computer Users


Everyone has heard of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS is one of many types of repetitive motion injuries (RMIs) caused by long-term and repetitive use of awkward postures, combined with forceful exertion. RMIs are just not due to computer use, but can occur from prolonged use of tools, from excess weight on your shoulder from carrying heavy backpacks or purses, and even from reaching too far overhead. Working with your hands above shoulder level, reaching behind the back, bending the wrists and even grasping or pinching objects can increase the wear and tear on the body. Muscles, tendons, joints, nerves and blood vessels can even be affected.

RMIs can be prevented through ergonomics, which is the science of finding ways to make tasks easier on the body. Many of these strategies involve adjusting the way you perform a job, including using protective equipment, the correct tools, and proper techniques. 

Here are a few tips that can lessen the chance of incurring an RMI by using your body in a safe manner:

  • Good posture should be maintained during computer use: head over the shoulders (not tilted back or forward), chin tucked in, shoulders back (not hunched), sitting up straight, feet on the floor or footrest, upper arms at your sides, elbows bent 90 degrees, forearms resting on elbow rests, hands/fingers slightly down on keyboard.  Maintaining proper upper body alignment while making subtle changes throughout the day is important for reducing muscle fatigue.
  • Keep your waist straight when grasping objects or using tools.
  • Use your whole hand (power grip) when grasping objects.
  • Keep your elbows bent and close to your sides as you work.
  • Use your whole arm and do not lock your elbows when your reach, push or pull.
  • Use tools that allow you to keep your wrist straight while maintaining comfortable, positive control.
  • Lift safely from your knees, not your waist.
  • If performing repetitive work, take frequent, one-minute breaks to stretch and refocus eyes or perform other tasks to break up the repetition.