So you have your chair and your desk well set-up. How can you make your workplace even more conducive to working without causing or contributing to any musculoskeletal problems?
People use mouses (My preferred version, OED suggests both are common usage and mice is actually commoner) widely throughout their working day. Mouse use can be a significant factor in repetitive strain injuries such as tennis-elbow. So here is my advice. There is no anatomically comfortable way to use the tracker pad or wiggly nub thing on your laptop whilst leaving the keyboard in the right place for both hands to use it, so try to use a separate peripheral as much as possible. You want the area around your mouse, clear and unencumbered. I you find that you have to extend your wrist to use your mouse then you need one of those mousemats with a built in wrist support (it is going to depend on the size of your hand relative to the size of the mouse). If you are still getting repetitive strain injury, it may be because there is a low grade problem with your wrist, elbow or shoulder, so come and see an osteopath and get checked, or it may be that you need a different type of mouse. Some people get on better with a mouse where the hand is held with the palm facing inwards not downwards, others with tracker pads; there are lots of options, so don’t suffer unnecessarily.
Just like mouses there are different options; ergonomic, split and even perpendicular keyboards. Every type is a compromise, your hand may be in a better position to type but may require a larger or more awkward movement to reach the mouse…A perpendicular keyboard would be pretty awkward for a non-touch-typist! So you are going to have to try and see what works best for you. Choice of keyboard is nowhere near as important as setting up your chair desk and keyboard position properly, it really is the cherry on the icing on the cake. However, don’t miss this cheap and easy fix, if you are using a (non-perpendicular) keyboard and want to guard against repetitive strain and/or carpal tunnel syndrome ideally you want your wrist in a straight position. If your wrist is extended when you type then you need a wrist support, which is a sort of squishy sausage of cushion that sits in front of your keyboard.
Do you use your phone a lot at work? Do you write or type notes whilst on the phone? Holding your phone to your ear with your shoulder is a really good way to mess with your neck. Get a headset. Some people have their phones at the back of their desks so they have to stretch awkwardly, or on the wrong side, or with too short a cord on the handset. If your phone is awkward to reach, move it!
It is simple, If you use it often, make sure it is easy to reach and comfortable to use. If you can’t do that from one position, then move position for different tasks and/or declutter to make it possible. It’s obvious stuff but it may just save you a lot of discomfort.
Damian is the principal osteopath at Vauxhall Village Osteopathy and Oval Osteopathy