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21. Are you at that keyboard again? Well, sit up!

By Mark Alberstat

SITTING PRETTY IS more than a casual phrase these days as computer users and game players stoop, bend and contort themselves for hours every day in front of their PCs.

Poor posture and the general ergonomics of your home or office workspace can create serious and long-term injuries.

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that 100 million U.S. citizens suffer from RSI (repetitive stress injuries). RSI has also become the number one job-related injury in the past decade.

The sad fact behind these and other similar statistics is that most of these injuries could have been prevented with a little thought and planning.

Any constant and repetitive motion that damages muscles, bones, nerves or soft tissue can be termed a repetitive stress injury. For computer users, the injuries usually occur in the hands, wrist, neck and/or shoulder.

RSI includes the famous, and all too common, carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the sensation in the thumb, index and middle fingers.

The following are some of the common symptoms of computer-related RSI:

  • sore neck/back

  • recurring headaches

  • weakened grip

  • pain, numbness or stiffness in the wrists, fingers or hands

  • eyestrain

One of the best ways you can avoid suffering any of these symptoms is to simply take a break of five to 10 minutes during every hour you are at the computer. Not all employers will allow you to get up and walk around for that time but a short break away from the posture of your work station can help your long-term health.

Correct posture at your workstation is another easy way to help your longer-term health. This sitting posture includes the correct height for the keyboard, mouse and monitor. Many purpose-built computer desks have slide-out shelves for your keyboard and mouse and are at a good height for most people. Adjustable chairs also aid in giving you the correct position for these desks.

Some helpful Web sites are:

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, e-mail If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


The Mousepad Index


Originally published 9 November 2003


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