You’re kicking through project reports, you’re busting out spreadsheets, and you’ve designed new logos – all before lunch. It’s an incredibly productive morning, and perhaps one out of the many this month already, but your body is starting to complain. For the desktop warriors of the world, taking good care of our wrists, shoulders, and backs is crucial to being able to continue the work we love (or at least the work that pays the bills!). Even if you are among the millions of us who cannot afford a custom workstation, there are plenty of choices you can make and options you can find to maintain good ergonomics, which can save you from soreness and injury.
Because, let’s face it, no matter how new and fancy your computer is, if it’s painful to use it, you will be neither a productive nor a happy human being. This week we’ll be focusing on the wrists – one of the most overused and underappreciated joint areas in the body, especially in computing. However, it is also one of the most often injured ones, with maladies ranging from muscular strain and bone bruising to the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome. Luckily, there are ways to prevent pain and loss of function, even for the most heavy of online users. Pay attention to these three tips to keep your hardworking wrists happy and healthy!
- Fine tune your workstation
In the corporate and academic worlds, there is a staunch uniformity in function that simply does not work for the majority of individuals: desk sizes and heights, chair shapes, lighting angles, and office accessories are often exactly the same. However, all humans are definitely not the same – our bodies operate differently, with different angles and abilities, and vastly different comfort levels and preferences. If your company boss allows you to personalize your desk or cubicle, take them up on it.
Begin by raising or lowering your desk height in order to find the sweet spot where you can easily reach everything without strain, but one that is high enough where you don’t slump over. Then examine your chair – is it wide enough? Does it have lumbar support? Is it padded in the right places? If your seat is simply too uncomfortable, look into investing in a nice new one that cradles your body in a natural and supported position. Lastly, arrange your monitor, keyboard, and mouse (or laptop) so you can reach them with minimal effort. Efficiency is key to preventing injury.
- Utilize pads, gels, and supports
In nearly any computer store, you will be able to find accessories to make your work zone a more comfortable place: padded keyboards, ergonomic mice, desktop gel mats, and much more. Generally, they are inexpensive so you can afford to try several to choose the best fit. If you type a lot, look for a gel pad that supports your wrists in front of your keyboard (some are built-in and some are separate), and if you do heavy-mouse design type work, shell out the cash for a gel-infused mouse pad.
If you have had previous wrist injury or pain, you may want to consider wearing braces while working. These can be found in drugstores everywhere (or you can have a custom one made through your doctor’s office) and are instrumental in immobilizing the wrist as to prevent strain and sprain. For those with less finicky joints, soft compression wrist sleeves are available and some even come with heating and cooling features.
- Rest and stretch!
Hands down (pun intended) the most important thing you can do to ease wrist discomfort is to take frequent breaks to rest and stretch. Whether you’re sitting on a couch, a college lecture hall chair, or an executive office seat, you can benefit from a regular reprieve in your day. Get up and take a quick walk if you can to alleviate your hands and wrists as well as unburden your eyes and brain from all that screen time. And while you’re at your desk, set a timer for every half hour to remind yourself to shake out your hands, massage your forearms, and stretch your wrists.
Look up things like “office yoga” and “desk stretches” for tons of helpful poses, tips, and advice on keeping your wrists and arms healthy and preventing fatigue. Also during your off hours, research some simple “wrist exercises” to build strength and stamina, which are important in reducing rates of injury.
So if you want to ensure your ability to enjoy online fun and bring in a steady paycheck, start practicing all the ways you can keep your wrists happy this year. Take time to tamp down your desk ergonomics, invest in some squishy accessories, and master the art of taking breaks…and you’ll have a pain-free and productive 2015!