A few tips on typing
Good physical health is one thing many of us take for granted. The human body is a complex network of intricate systems and parts, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that everything is going perfectly smoothly for many of us. It often takes a major malfunction within own body or in someone’s close to us before we realize we’ve been taking our health for granted all along.
For me, the first time I experienced the realization that health isn’t a guarantee was when my younger sister, who was fifteen at the time, got very sick and lost her eyesight. Out of nowhere, a perfectly healthy teenage girl was stricken suddenly by a severe virus that made her world go black. Almost a decade later, a second big shock for me was childbirth. My extra long labor followed by a complicated c-section left me mostly immobile for several weeks—it made me realize how lucky I had always been to be so healthy and active.
I got my third reality check recently. I’ve been experiencing swelling and pain in the fingers, joints, and wrist of my right hand over the past couple of months. For someone who is right-handed, spends over 40 hours per week at work typing, lifts weights three or more times per week, blogs in her free time, and then feeds, changes, and lifts a 22-pound baby several times a day, this is a huge problem. As I’m typing now, I’m wearing a wrist brace and using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse I just purchased. And, I’m still a little uncomfortable.
In a world where people spend more and more time in front of computer screens, I thought I would pass along a few things I’ve learned lately after seeing a few specialists and having an ergonomic health expert visit my workstation:
Practice prevention. In spite of spending the majority of my working hours at a desk for about 10 years now, I’ve never had any problems. I noticed some weird back pain several years ago, but it went away and never came back (knock on wood). Suddenly, when I entered my thirties a couple years ago, I started noticing more aches and pains…and that they hang around a heck of a lot longer than they used to do. After having someone evaluate my work station, I’ve realized that I should have been paying more attention to how I move, sit, stand, and type since the beginning. Why didn’t they teach us this stuff in computer classes in school? My new take is that even if you feel your computer setup is completely comfy, please do yourself a favor and take a peek at the suggestions below. Then, make a few adjustments to prevent problems down the road.
Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor (or on a footrest.)
- The back of your chair should support your lower back and fit the curve of your spine.
- Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle and even with your keyboard when your shoulders are relaxed and your hands are resting comfortably.
- The top of your screen should be slightly below eye level and 16 to 20 inches from your eyes.
- There should be little or no glare or reflections on your screen, and the contrast and brightness should be set at a level that feels comfortable.
Keep things close. Place the items you use most frequently (mouse, telephone, etc) within easy reach so you don’t have to twist and stretch to get to them.
- Check in with yourself throughout the day to ensure your hands and body are relaxed, not tense. If you’re not good at doing that, set an alarm on your computer calendar or cell phone to remind you throughout the day.
- Change how you are sitting periodically.
- Go do something else (clean your desk, make a phone call, etc) to break up the time you spend at your computer.
- Stand up every once in a while.
- Look away from your screen and glance across the room or out the window.
- Close your eyes occasionally, or, at the very least, blink.
- Stretch. Circle your wrists. Spread your fingers. Shrug your shoulders.
Here’s a diagram I was given from the specialist working with me. I thought it was super helpful:I also switched to using my mouse with my left hand. I figured there’s no reason not to distribute some of the work I do to the left side of my body. The first day or so, it felt very awkward and frustratingly slow. But, after that, I was clicking away just as I had been with my right hand (amazingly).
As much as I can help it, I’m not planning on reducing my computer use anytime soon, so I figure I may as well work on how I do it. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!