As a self-employed graphic designer, I work at my computer for up to 12 hours a day.
I've noticed occasional tingling sensations in the calves of my
legs, and my wrists ache a lot. I guess this is the repetitive
strain injury I've been reading so much about. What can I do before
it gets any worse?
A: You're right to be wanting to make some changes quickly,
before your discomfort turns into more serious, lost-time pain.
Strain Injury (RSI) is a general class of disorders resulting from
strain to back, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers. It occurs
gradually, over a period of time. It results from a combination of
high rates of repetition, awkward posture or positioning of limbs, use
of excessive force and lack of adequate rest or breaks. It can affect
anyone who does repetitive work, including people who spend a lot of
time at a computer.
order to prevent carpal tunnel wrist problems or tendonitis in your elbow, avoid prolonged unnatural bending of
your wrist in any direction. Adjust the height of your chair or use a
keyboard tray and/or wrist rest so that when you are keyboarding, your
forearm is parallel to the floor. Find a mouse or trackball that
allows your wrist to remain straight.
are a number of ergonomic
keyboards on the market, with the left and right hand keys slightly
angled away from each other, and a built-in wrist pad. This will
prevent your wrists from being bent at unnatural angles, both
horizontally and vertically.
back and leg related problems can be remedied by choosing an
adjustable chair, which fits your body size and the major tasks you
undertake. Your chair should adjust up and down, depending on desk
height and the task in which you're engaged.
a chair that allows you to sit in an upright position with your back
straight, feet flat on the floor, thighs parallel to the floor and
your head looking forward. Your lower back should be supported at all
times. When you are engaged in long periods of computer intensive
work, you may be more comfortable leaning slightly forward.
your computer monitor approximately 18 to 20 inches away from you. To
prevent shoulder and neck strain, make sure the height at which your
monitor is situated allows you to look straight ahead. The top of the
monitor should be level with your head. If you refer often to hard
text, use a copy holder, which elevates your papers to the same height
as your monitor.
matter how well designed your home office is, don't forget to take breaks.
Every 15 minutes or so, stand up and flex your muscles, breathe deeply
and focus your eyes on something far away.