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Ergonomics is not a four-letter word — even though many business owners may think otherwise. 

That's because when business people hear the word ergonomics, they immediately think of dollar signs — as in what it will cost to outfit employee workstations with new setups to prevent sometimes crippling injuries.

But the money needed may be minimal, and your employees' health should be the overriding concern. Painless simple adjustments to a computing environment, such as getting a better chair or raising a monitor, may cost little but makes a huge difference in injuries and employee absences. 

Understanding how poor positioning combined with no breaks can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) should be a priority for anyone who works at a PC and/or employs others who do. 

Businesses very often don't have to spend $1,000 or more on equipment — or completely overhaul the workplace. If you have the knowledge, you can better know what to do and what to spend. Employers should learn about what triggers wrist pain and other repetitive-stress injuries, and spend time watching and training their employees, he says. Because people come in different shapes and sizes, solutions to ergonomic problems differ. However, there are some generally accepted guidelines when it comes to sitting at a computer for several hours a day, day after day. Here's a look at some. 

Keyboards: Your wrist position is key 

The ideal computing position, most agree, is to be sitting upright or slightly reclined. Your shoulders should be straight, upper arms hanging straight down, close to your body, and elbows at a 90-degree (or even slightly more) angle. Your forearms and hands should be flat and your hands relaxed. 

All this leaves your wrists in a neutral position. Those who type with their wrists pointed up or down, or extended outward or inward, are asking for trouble. It generally means they're sitting too close or too far away, or they don't have a keyboard that suits them. 

Split keyboards — ergonomically designed keyboards sloped in the middle — are growing in use and popularity, although they still command only 10% of the market. One reason for their increasing use is that they do a better job, with most users of ensuring that the wrists remain in a neutral position. Microsoft manufactures both flat and split keyboards but I foresee more users migrating to the split keyboard because of its ergonomic enhancements. Based on my research, there is more of a chance of being comfortable with a split keyboard. But I realize that 'comfortable' is a subjective term, and that you can be perfectly comfortable with a flat keyboard too.

Mouse: Does it fit your hand?

Hands run in all different sizes, but so do mice. What you want is one not too big or too small, but that fits snugly under your relaxed hand. The back of your hand should feel the mouse, and the point where your hand turns into your wrist should be on the table. It needs to fit well enough so you can easily click and know the click is successful. If you're pooh-poohing this, don't. You'd be surprised how many people suffer hand or shoulder pain because of a mouse that's an unnatural fit. A trackball mouse often works better for people with shoulder pain because it takes less overall movement to use. For those already suffering from hand or wrist pain, the answer might be a foot-operated mouse, which eliminates stressful hand motions. 

Monitor: eye level and minus glare 

If it isn't positioned correctly, your PC monitor can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, and eyestrain from glare. Keep it directly in front of you, and at an arm's length in distance. Your neck should be straight, not leaning forward. The top of the screen should be directly level with your eyes. The monitor should be tilted slightly upward. Put stacks of paper underneath it if necessary — and be wary of using a laptop PC in place of your desktop for long periods of time. Beyond this, glare from poor positioning related to your windows or lighting could result in eyestrain and headaches. Re-position your monitor, and adjust your font size and color, if necessary. also recommends putting your monitor on a swivel arm if you are frequently interacting with others, and want to move your monitor to the side while you do. And it strongly urges following a "20-20-20 rule." "Every 20 minutes you are working at your computer, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 

Chair: most important component? 

A good chair may be the most important part of your workstation, because it affects your position more than just about anything else. An adjustable chair, allowing the user to customize the fit, is the better choice ergonomically than a fixed chair with no options. 
Besides sitting straight or slightly reclined, a user's lower back should be fully pressed up against and supported by the back of the chair. His feet should be flat on the floor, or on a foot rest — a platform you can buy inexpensively to help a user maintain a correct sitting position and avoid fatigue. 

Laptop PCs devotes a section of its site to "mobile ergonomics," including wireless phones and PDAs. Suffice to say here that notebook PCs trigger the most ergonomic fears, because you can't easily adjust the keyboard and the screen — they're connected. Also, many people operate them, literally, from their own laps or in other awkward positions. But that is the nature of the beast. Having your screen at eye level means you're bending your wrists upward. keeping your wrists flat means you're looking downward, at the expense of your neck. The best advice here is to avoid prolonged use of a laptop. If you can't, use a mouse at all times, don't compromise on comfort, change positions often, and take frequent breaks.

A word about phones

A headset used to be an option. Now it's a necessity if you are on the phone a lot. Taking steps to get your PC ergonomically correct, but cradling the phone on your neck for long phone calls doesn't make sense. You can find headsets for under $100. 

Get up and walk around — often

Having the most ergonomically safe workstation possible still may not prevent MSDs. Users must change positions and leave their workstations several times a day to break up the repetitive stresses. A health-care specialist where I work strongly recommends drinking water throughout the day. That guarantees you'll take breaks.

Get your nervous system checked

Last but certainly the most important is to get your nervous system evaluated. If you are like most people, you have been doing all of these wrong. You body has been undergoing repetitive trauma for years. It may or may not be producing any pain. Once thing is for sure that your spine will be out of alignment. Your spine is the highway of life. All communications from the brain to the body and vice versa has through go through the spine in other for you to function well. If there are interferences in those signals due to improper spinal alignment, you health is at risk. Have you nervous system evaluated to make sure you don't have the signal killer known as Subluxation affecting your nervous system. 

In our office, we locate and remove interferences within the nervous system that are disrupting the body's ability to heal itself. 
Did you like this article? Feel free to share it with the people you care about and see if a complimentary consultation is the next step to regain their health. 
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