Nowadays, working in an office seems challenging and full of enjoyment. The picture of people sitting, chatting, working on the computer, being well dressed makes us think that the office work is ideal.
We would often think about what could possibly go wrong? Is there anything that can happen to us by just sitting in a comfortable chair?
The reality is that the desk life is really demanding and it has a huge impact on our health.
Working in an office, sitting throughout the day and being stuck to the keyboard and the mouse can cause serious chronic injuries.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32% of all the injuries at work are work-related musculoskeletal problems such as muscle strain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Many of these injuries are caused by sitting in front of a computer, typing and other repetitive tasks.
Some of the most common injury causes are the following:
- Repetitive motions: Using the phone constantly, typing on the keyboard and using a mouse are included here.
- Incorrect posture: Sitting in a poor posture and changing these positions constantly.
- No breaks: Not giving yourself a rest time during the day.
- Stress: Being under physical and emotional pressure.
Almost every office job requires spending time responding to emails, writing documents or report, chatting with clients etc.
The wrist is a very complex joint with many bones, ligaments, tendons. It is also very easy to injure and can cause you a lot of pain when things go wrong.
The tendons in our wrist are naturally positioned parallel one to another. When we are typing on the computer, the tendons go back and forth and this type of repetitive motion can inflame the tendons as they become more fatigued.
Most people will also sit with poor posture and their shoulders hunched, which definitely contribute to poor typing posture and awkward hand and wrist positions.
Decrease the risk factors for a possible wrist injury
The good news is that there are simple things that we can all do in order to approve our work environment and reduce the daily discomfort that comes along with office jobs.
1. The correct posture while using a keyboard
Finding proper placement and arrangement of the computer keyboard reduces the risk of getting wrist injury. Some of the factors that you should consider when arranging your computer workstation, are:
a) The height of your keyboard placement
If your keyboard and working surface are placed too high or too low, you can damage your wrist, shoulder or arm. If your keyboard is placed too low, you’ll be forcing your wrists to bend backward. If your keyboard is too high, you need to raise your shoulders in order to type. These types of irregular positions cause discomfort to us. Have a look at what the correct height of your desk should be.
Use an ergonomic chair that can adjust the height according to the work surface height and maintain a neutral body posture.
The height of your elbows should be at the same height as the keyboard. While typing on the keyboard, your shoulders should be relaxed and your wrist should be bent up or down.
If you can’t raise your chair enough, consider using a height adjustable desk to get the height of your workstation inch-perfect.
b) The distance from your keyboard
Placing the keyboard too far or too close to you will force you into an unnatural posture.
The keyboard should be placed in front of you. The distance that is between you and the keyboard should allow your elbows to be close to your body and your forearms parallel with the floor.
c) Design and use
Some of the keyboards bent our wrist in different ways when we want to reach all the keys. Also, your wrist may be bent upward if the keyboard has extended legs on the back or a step design angle. These keyboards also contribute to uncomfortable typing positions. Typing in these positions creates stress to the tendons while moving the wrist during repetitive keying.
Consider alternative ergonomic keyboards such as split keyboard design or tented and raised keyboard design in order to promote neutral wrist postures.
You may need time to get used to these devices, but it can be worth it to help prevent long-term wrist injuries.
2. Using your mouse correctly
There are hundreds of different designs and shapes of mouse available and finding a good, ergonomic mouse can make a world of difference.
Some of the factors that you should have in mind when choosing the right mouse are the size, shape and the placement of it.
a) Mouse placement
Like the keyboard, the mouse should be placed in a position which allows you to have your shoulders relaxed, your elbow at 90 degrees, and your wrist in a neutral position.
Many people like to use vertical mice such as this one from Anker to maintain a neutral wrist position. A vertical mouse takes a lot of stress off your wrist by adjusting the angle of your arm to be in a neutral, rather than pronated, position.
b) The size and shape of the mouse
Any unusual size and shape of the mouse can increase your chance of injury. Mice nowadays come in lots of sizes, and it is possible that your hands may be too small or too large for the mouse you are currently using.
The size of your mouse should fit in your hand so that you can normally use it. If you are a left-handed person, search for a left-hand model of a mouse that is available in different sizes so that can fit both large and small hands.
3. Sit in the proper position
I have caught myself many times sitting unnaturally on the chair, leaning forward, crossing my legs, and sometimes when I’m concentrated I can’t even remember what position I’m sitting in.
Be aware of how you are sitting; adjust your chair correctly, adjust your desk if you can, and make sure that you are sitting in a healthy posture.
4. Give yourself a break
On every working hour, give yourself a 5-minute break to get up from the chair and move around. Go to the toilet, go and grab a glass of water or just walk around for 5 minutes, and try not to grab your phone when you do this!
Also, while you’re sitting and working on the computer, take around 10 seconds to rest your eyes and hands. Every 20 minutes or so you can look away from the screen to rest your eyes, and at the same time stretch your wrists and forearms.
5. Use the laptop correctly
Working on a laptop is pretty common these days, despite the poor ergonomic design of your average laptop. To ensure that you are using your laptop properly you need to make sure that you are following correct laptop ergonomic guidelines.
Additionally, I suggest that you look into products such as external monitors arms or external keyboard and mouse in order to avoid common laptop injuries.
Exercises to prevent wrist pain
- Spread your fingers as wide as they can go, hold for a second or two, and then release. Repeat up to 10 times in a single session. This type of stretch can be performed multiple times per day.
- Extend your arm in front of you, in the same height as your shoulder. Face your palm to the floor and with your other hand pull your fingers down towards the floor while keeping the arm in place. You should feel a nice stretch along the top of your forearm.
- The same as the previous stretch, but this time with the palm facing upwards towards the ceiling. Pull your fingers down towards the floor and stretch the other side of your wrist and forearm.
If you are experiencing wrist pain as a result of your office job, or you are at least having symptoms, don’t neglect it. Follow the tips that I have stated in this article. You should do the office exercises even if you don’t feel any pain as a way of preventing future problems.
Be wise enough and prevent the possible injuries on your working place. Being healthy is what matters the most. It’s really easy to experience some health issues, and it can take much more time to cure it. So, stay safe and take care of your body!
- Nurul Huda Baba et al. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) among computer users: A case study in telecommunication company. HFEM World Conference on Technology, Innovation and Enterpreneurship.
- Carolyn T. Coffin. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in sonographers: a review of causes and types of injury and best practices for reducing injury risk. 2014
- Brakenridge CL et al. What do workers do to reduce their sitting time? The relationship of strategy use and workplace support with desk-based workers’ behavior changes in a workplace-delivered sitting-reduction and activity-promoting intervention. J Occup Environ Med. 2018; 60(11):1026-1033
This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Marija Petkovic.