Health Library: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

How to Avoid At-the-Desk Injuries

Your office cubicle doesn't look like a dangerous place. But if your computer, chair and other parts of your workstation aren't positioned properly, you can end up with sore wrists or a backache or other physical problems that may keep you on the injured list.

Ergonomics is the science of fitting work environment to worker. Paying attention to ergonomics can help keep you healthy and productive.

There are some key factors to keep in mind when setting up a workstation or looking at your own office cubicle. And there are steps you can take to minimize the possibility of injury through repetitive movements.

At your workstation

When you sit at your desk, your back and thighs and your thighs and calves should be at 90-degree angles. If your legs are too short to keep them at a right angle, you should rest your feet on a small stool or box to boost them to the correct height. Don't cross your legs.

Your upper and lower arms should also be at a 90-degree angle. Your wrists should remain in a neutral position, with no bending up, down or to the side while typing, experts say. Wrist rests should be used only when you're not typing; using a wrist rest while typing puts a bend in the wrist.

Try not to rest your wrists or forearms on hard surfaces. Don't rest your arms on your chair's armrests while typing. Don't type with a heavy hand. Use a light touch on your keyboard.

If you share your cubicle with another worker, make sure you readjust the workstation to your needs when you start to work. Decide what office equipment you use frequently and place it near you, so you won't have to reach far.

Monitor and mouse

Your computer monitor should be at arm's length -- 20 to 26 inches from you. The top of the screen should be at eye level. If your monitor needs to be higher, you can raise it with a special stand or lift.

When you use the computer mouse, make sure your wrists are straight and relaxed. Move your whole arm when you move the mouse, rather than just your forearm.

When you use the phone and type or write, don't cradle the receiver between your head and shoulder. Use a headset or a shoulder support for the receiver.

On the move

Take frequent breaks; move around at least once an hour. Stretch while seated at your desk, get up and stretch. Change postures regularly when you're at your workstation.

Close your eyes and then refocus them on objects farther away from your computer screen. Don't forget to blink your eyes.

If you develop an ache or pain from movement or activities at work, talk to your health care provider. Don't ignore the pain.