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Your Health

Spending more time online? Try these tips for keyboard comfort

keyboard comfort

Whether surfing the Internet or keeping up with family and friends via email and social media, spending hours hunched over a computer keyboard can lead to back pain, neck pain, and repetitive-stress injuries of your fingers, hands, and wrists. To help avoid or reduce discomfort, consider practicing a few simple and potentially pain-avoidance techniques.

After all, as "LifeTimes" moves online, you'll be reading it more often on your computer and spending a lot more hours there. So this is the perfect time to develop ideal keyboarding habits.

Watch your posture, hand and wrist positioning

Poor posture may lead to aches and pains. To help reduce them, try these ideas:

Sit with your back, head, and neck perpendicular to the floor. Don't lean or hunch over the keyboard, keep thighs and forearms parallel to the floor, and avoid resting your elbows on the desk or chair armrests. Be sure to keep your shoulders down, not hunched or pulled up toward your head.

These tips may help reduce pain in your hands and wrists:

  • Keep wrists flat and in a straight line with forearms
  • Learn how to type using the touch method rather than hunting-and-pecking - this puts less stress on fingers
  • Keep fingers and thumbs slightly curved, not straight and extended, while typing
  • Rest your hands frequently
  • Do hand stretches before starting work and during short breaks
  • Don't rest the heels of your hands on the keyboard

The mouse and proper equipment

Adjust portable equipment, such as a laptop computer when using it for an extended period. Consider using a full-size keyboard and mouse with your laptops and raise the monitor to the correct height by placing it on a stand.

Gripping and clicking a mouse improperly may lead to discomfort. When you use one, keep it within easy reach of the keyboard, hold it gently and don't grasp or tap forcefully. Avoid extending or flexing your wrist back while using the mouse.

It's important to take regular breaks throughout the day. Briefly rest your eyes every 30 minutes. Spend 10 to 30 seconds looking across the room or out a window. Take a 10-minute break every two hours. Get up and move around to relieve stress and reduce muscle tension. Gently shake your hands and wrists. Periodically stand up and stretch.

Workspace tips

Making a few simple changes in your workspace can help too. Some things to try:

  • Adjust your computer - set it so you look slightly downward at the screen
  • Improve lighting - use a desk lamp that allows you to adjust the light angle
  • Reduce glare - if possible, reposition your computer terminal so it's perpendicular to a window or use an inexpensive, glare-reducing screen that attaches to the terminal
  • Add a footrest - raising feet and legs makes sitting more comfortable and can help relieve pressure on backs and legs
  • Get positioned properly - adjust chair height so your feet rest flat on the floor - be sure the front edge of the seat doesn't create excessive pressure behind your knees - sit in a slightly reclined position and keep the angle between your torso and thighs at 90 degrees or more
  • Get support - a chair with a seat and back contoured to your body can reduce muscle strain by maintaining the proper S-shaped curve in your spine

If you do develop discomfort in your wrists, neck or back, consider following up with your doctor, especially if you notice tingling or numbness, burning or radiating pain that does not go away, change in touch or temperature sensation, weakness, or other symptoms.