Computing in Comfort
When setting up a computer workstation, especially at home, we tend to use whatever furniture we have handy. However, "making do" may cost you more than it saves in the long run, due to decreased productivity and increased medical expenses. The more time you spend in front of the computer, the more important it is to adjust your workstation. Ideally, it should fit like custom-made clothing.
If you come away from a session at your computer with aching hands or eyes that feel full of sand, you may shrug off your discomforts as an unavoidable consequence of too much time at the keyboard, but the real problem probably is not the quantity of time you spend at the computer. It is more likely caused by your physical positioning at the computer. Here are some tips on how to arrange yourself and your computing environment for optimum health and comfort.
Physical proportions vary widely among individuals, yet we sit at mass-produced, one-size-fits-all desks. And like automobile seat belts, desks seem to be designed using a man as a model; they are usually too big for women.
Working at a desk that is too high off the floor can lead to all sorts of aches and pains, especially in your shoulders and neck. It can also trigger early fatigue and interfere with your ability to concentrate. A desk that is too low can also have physical repercussions, including an aching neck and upper back.
If resting your forearms on your desk causes your shoulders to rise upward, the desk is probably too tall. If your knees continually bump against the underside, even when your feet are flat on the floor, it is probably too short.
To elevate a desk that is too low, place boards or other stable and sturdy braces beneath the legs. Lowering a desk is a bit trickier. One rather permanent method is to use a saw to trim an inch or two from the legs. You can also compensate for a too-tall desk by raising your chair height, but if you do that, be sure to pay attention to the way that affects your overall position. You may need to add a footrest to maintain proper leg position.
Last reviewedJune 2012by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.