With the vast amount of equipment supplies that one can purchase to improve their ergonomic station at work, it makes it difficult to know “what is right for me?”. In the last blog (which discussed appropriate work-chairs), it was explained how setting up an ergonomic station starts with your chair. Once you are sitting in an ideal upright position, THEN it is time to build your environment around this optimal posture.
When you are in an upright posture, sense how it tends to open up your chest. This allows for good rib expansion with breathing, and naturally rests your shoulder blades back and down in a resting position. This posture also opens up your shoulders (slightly externally rotating your shoulders), bringing your palms facing each-other. This natural position that the upper extremity goes into is why the ergonomic keyboard and mouse now tends to be sloped and slanted versus previous, more traditional equipment.
If you now go out of the optimal position, you will feel your thoracic spine slouch and shoulder blades protract forward, your shoulders round forward and internally rotate, and palms face down. Your chin pokes forward as your head also comes forward. This posture places your body in a position that can cause chronic neck pain and/or headaches, thoracic spine pain, difficulty with proper breathing, shoulder pain, and possibly be related to other arm pains and/or arm/hand numbness and tingling.
Therefore, cheap purchases to help maintain ideal sitting posture would include a split keyboard and ergonomic mouse. The split keyboard has a small learning curve before mastering quick typing skills, but the slope allows the shoulders to stay partially open and promotes an upright, open-chested posture. If your job requirements do not include 10-keying, look at non 10-key keyboards, which will allow your mouse to be closer to your midline and prevent reaching excessively use. The ergonomic mouse also keeps the shoulder open, and has places to rest all five fingers. They also tend to be wireless, to stop any extra stresses placed on the body when having to fight proper cord movement during mouse use.
Other inexpensive ergonomic equipment includes wrist supports and document holders. Wrist supports (such as gel-filled or rice-filled pads) can help maintain the wrist in relative neutral, and prevents excessive pressure on the wrist from the desk or desk-edge during mouse-use too. The document holder allows you to maintain upright posture while you input data from various documents into the computer.
Small changes to your workstation can have drastic effects to how your body feels at the end of the day. It is about giving your body a chance to ‘win’, in a workday filled with long-duration sitting and repetitive activities. If you have any concerns about your workstation, or are experiencing pain that affects you during your workday, contact your physical therapist to get evaluated, and have your workstation looked at to see where improvements can be made.