Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 6/17/05 Computer-related injuries are no laughing matter

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) June 16, 2005 11:59 AM PDT

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6/17/05 Computer-related injuries are no laughing matter

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 6/16/05 11:59 AM

Thank you everyone for your great submissions this week!

Doug, while Dave's answer comes directly from his experience, we also have a bunch of great answers in the honorable mentions and other advice from our members section below. Hopefully you'll find the information provided helpful and if you have a moment please swing by and join the discussion. I'm sure you have other questions to ask and please share with why this question came about.

Members, if you have additional advice for Doug, or would like to share some of your experiences or advice in regards to computer-related repetitive injuries, please feel free to post them in this thread below. Have a great weekend and please take care!

-Lee Koo
CNET Community


Question:

With more people spending more time in front of their
computers, carpal tunnel syndrome and other computer-related
injuries are becoming widespread. Do you have suggestions for
using computers in a way that avoids these problems? Where do
I go for one-stop information about ergonomics and products
that can lessen ergo problems, such as reviews or tests of
different products (chairs, mouse trays and pads, keyboards)?
How about advice regarding posture and seating measurements
relative to the monitor and desk?


Submitted by: Doug J.P.


Answer:

I may be an extreme case of PC-induced problems. As a software engineer, I had worked 10-hour days at computer terminals and PCs for more than 15 years when I began having RSI problems. I ended up having carpal tunnel surgery as well as lower back surgery for a ruptured disk. As a result, I began reading everything I could find on ergonomics. The lower back problems left me partially disabled and eligible for state aid in preparing myself for an alternative career. I decided to take my work experience and start my own Web site design business. It allowed me the flexibility of working fewer hours and scheduling my time over the entire week. I put together specifications for an ergonomic workstation and consulted with an ergonomic specialist for pointing devices and voice recognition software.

Here is the hardware and software I've found helpful for avoiding musculoskeletal pain and a recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hardware:

- Workstation

The "Dilbertville" workstation I spec'd included a height-adjustable corner section that can be raised from a 27 inch seated position to a 45 inch standing position. This allows me to work at the PC standing up. This flexibility was invaluable when I had prostate surgery and was unable to sit comfortably for a month afterwards.

- Keyboard/mouse platform

The workstation also has a height-adjustable keyboard/mouse platform. The mouse platform that can be pivoted in front of the right side of the tray or swung completely out of the way. Being able to position the mouse in front of the keyboard tray helps prevent hyper extension of the arm and shoulder. Yet I can move the mouse completely out of the way when I need to do keyboarding.

- Chair

I use a Herman Miller Aeron chair and consider it crucial for preventing computer-related pain. I had months of physical therapy after my lower back surgery, and my therapist came to my house and was able to make adjustments to the chair settings to optimize my seating position to minimize existing pain and prevent problems with stress to my upper back, neck and shoulders. I've had this chair over 5 years, and it's still going strong, unlike other office chairs I'd had that broke down after only a year or so.

- Alternative mice

My initial mouse substitute was a touchpad. It eliminated most of the wrist and arm movement. I worked for about a year with a touchpad from Cirque (http://www.cirque.com/), but its movement wasn't sensitive enough for graphics work. I did more research and found that the key attribute to my mouse alternatives was to avoid having the hand in the extended palm-down position, so the forearm wouldn't be rotated.

Keeping this in mind, my next alternative mouse was the Renaissance Mouse, now provided by 3M as its Ergonomic Mouse. (http://www.3m.com/us/office/myworkspace/mos_ergo.jhtml). It looks like a joystick, but it keeps the hand in a more natural vertical position. Its size can make it difficult to do fine movements, but you can get around this by taking the hand off the joystick and moving the base. It comes in 2 sizes, depending on your hand width.

The Ergonomic Mouse worked fine for several years, and by the time I was ready to try something else I discovered Evoluent's Vertical Mouse 2 (http://www.evoluent.com/). This optical mouse is the one I currently use and is the most comfortable mouse I've ever used. It looks like a tall version of a standard mouse, but it's designed to keep the hand in a handshake position. It comes in right hand and left hand models. It has a scroll wheel and 5 buttons, 4 of which are programmable.

Software:

I use break reminder software from Chequers Software (http://www.cheqsoft.com/). It's free for personal use. It neutralizes the mouse and keyboard, forcing me to take breaks - though there is an override option which allows me to cancel the break. It's very customizable, with short duration pauses of 5 to 60 seconds and rest breaks from 1 to 60 minutes long. It also has 3 presets for degrees of safety, depending on how much pain I'm experiencing. I tend to get so involved with my PC work that I lose track of time - and end up with back, neck and wrist pain. This software is invaluable for getting me to pause, stretch and get up from my workstation.

The Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software was recommended by the ergonomics consultant to reduce stress from typing. I started with their version 4 Mobile, which came with a portable digital recorder. This allowed me to record notes and reminders while away from the PC. I use the software most often for e-mail.

I hope my experience will be helpful and am looking forward to other responses you get to your question.

Dave D.
Mansfield Web Designs
Mansfield Center, CT
www.mansfieldwebdesigns.com


Submitted by: Dave D. of Mansfield Center, Connecticut

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