ERGONOMICS FOR THE
How to avoid annoying aches and pains that compromise your work.
Marsha Devine 2009
What’s so important about ergonomics?
Over my years of working at a computer, I have experienced tendonitis
in my elbow, neck and back pain, eye strain, and other annoying aches
& pains that interfere with my creativity and productivity. As a
designer, this means that I am not earning or producing what I need to.
The good news is there are simple steps one can take to avoid computer
Ergonomics is a science whose
main purpose is to design
workspaces and tools that help
people do their jobs and use their
tools and other products
comfortably and safely.
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)
signs & symptoms
Do you have any of these?
Prolonged and repetitive motions Numbness or a burning sensation in the hand
and excessive force can cause Reduced grip strength in the hand
muscle and joint problems.
Swelling or stiffness in the joints
Computer artists and designers Pain in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, or back
at risk for MSDs associated with Reduced range of motion in the shoulder, neck, or
computer use may experience back
some of these signs or Dry, itchy, or sore eyes
Blurred or double vision
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Aching or tingling
Repetitive Stress Injuries can be
Change your position!
No matter how good your working posture is,
staying in the same posture or sitting still for long
periods is not healthy. Change your position
frequently throughout the work day in the
Make small adjustments to your chair or backrest.
Stretch your fingers, hands, arms, and torso.
Stand up and walk around for a few minutes
Give Yourself a Break!
Take a break! All Ergonomists agree
that it's a good idea to take frequent,
brief rest breaks.
Looking at a computer screen for
a while causes some changes in
how the eyes work, causes you to
blink less often, and exposes
more of the eye surface to the air.
Every 15 minutes you should Palming: This teaches you to relax your
briefly look away from the eyes, bringing healthy energy to your eyes.
screen for a minute or two to a
more distant scene, preferably First, rub your hands together 15 to 20
something more than 20 feet seconds until they feel warm. Place cupped
away. This lets the muscles hands over your closed eyes - careful not to
inside the eye relax. touch your eyes hands. Fingers should
overlap and rest gently on the center of your
forehead without unnecessary pressure on
Also, blink your eyes rapidly for
a few seconds. This refreshes the your face. Rest your elbows on a table. Do
tear film and clears dust from this quietly for one to two. As you relax, the
the eye surface. darkness will seem blacker.
Most typing is done in bursts
rather than continuously. A Cornell University press release (Sept. 24, 1999) stated:
Between these bursts of activity "When workers heed the
you should rest your hands in a computer's reminder to
relaxed, flat, straight posture. take a break, their
During a micro-break of < 2
minutes, you can briefly stretch,
stand up, move around, or do a
different work task.
A micro-break isn't necessarily a
break from work, but it's a break
from the use of a particular set of
muscles that's doing most of the
Every 30 to 60 minutes
you should take a brief
rest break. During this
break stand up, move
around and do
Go and get a drink of
water, soda, tea, coffee or
whatever. This allows you
to rest and exercise
different muscles and
you'll feel less tired.
There are many
stretching and gentle
exercises that you can
do to help relieve
You should do these
every 1-2 hours.
Ergonomic Exercise For Hands
Wrist Rotation: Stretch both arms straight to the front with closed
fists. Rotate both the fists together ten times in the clockwise direction and
ten times in the anticlockwise direction. Do ensure that only your fists are
rotating and the rest of your arms are stationery.
Elbow Rotation: Bend your hands towards the front and hold your
shoulders with your palms. Now, rotate your elbows ten times in the
clockwise and ten times in the anticlockwise direction.
Whole hands, small circles: Stretch both hands to the sides
holding your palms straight up perpendicular to the hands. Now, make
small circles with both palms ten times in the clockwise and ten times in
the anticlockwise direction. Note that the smaller the circle, the better
relaxation to your hands. This is an excellent Ergonomic Exercise for those
who have to sit in front of the computer for very long hours.
Whole hands, big circles: Stretch your hands to the sides. Make
big circles (as big as possible) with both the hands ten times in the
clockwise and ten times in the anticlockwise direction. The number of
times can be increased gradually as this becomes less strenuous. All these
Ergonomic Exercises can be done while you relax in your workstation seat.
If you prefer doing them at home or in standing postures, you can stand in
the ‘attention’ posture. http://www.cessi.org
Ergonomic Exercises for Back
Backward: Stand straight in the attention posture.
Breath in while you bend gently back and come back
to the normal position while you breathe out. While
you bend back, try to bend as much as possible, but
do not over extend your back. Try to do this ten times.
Forward: Stand straight in the attention posture.
Raise both hands up while you breath in and come
down to touch your toes without bending your knees
while you breath out. You might not be able to do it
with perfection in the initial days, but can improve
gradually day by day. Don’t try to touch your toes in
the beginning as it might hurt your back. Most users
tend to increase their waist length on prolonged use
Ergonomic Exercises for Shoulders
Use a large bath towel and grasp it at opposite corners.
Sling it across the shoulder of tightness and bring
both ends across to the opposite hip or waist. With the
arm on that side pull gently downward and then
Apart from these Ergonomic Exercises , you can go for
jogging, brisk walking, aerobics, swimming, outdoor
games etc. to be in good shape and improve your
Remember that you don’t get much Ergonomic
Exercise the whole day when you are in front of your
computer. So, sacrifice your time in the mornings or
evening for your healthy body to have a healthy mind.
One to 1 ½ hours each day is recommended.
Working at a computer can be
rhythmic and time can pass quickly
without realizing how long you've
been working and how much you've
been typing, mousing, and drawing.
There are excellent ergonomic
software programs that you can
install on your computer. Free and
purchased software is available.
Most software will run in the
background and will monitor how
much you've been using the
computer. Software will prompt you
to take a rest break at appropriate
intervals, and will suggest simple
Screen shots from “Workrave”
Natural Body Positioning
Hands, wrists, and forearms straight, in-line, and parallel to the floor.
Head level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced; in-line with
Shoulders relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
Feet fully supported by the floor or a footrest.
Back fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or
leaning back slightly.
Thighs and hips supported by a well-padded seat and parallel to the floor.
Knees about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.
Obtained from OSHA 2009
location is key