By Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute (www.bluepencilinstitute.com)
I spend a tremendous amount of time writing at my computer workstation and have learned that if I don’t use my keyboard properly that I will have quite a few aches and pains later. Here are some tips that have made a big difference for me and that I hope will help you, too.
Your computer keyboard should not be on your lap or on top of a traditional desk. Good computer ergonomics dictate that the keyboard be positioned below the desk on a keyboard pullout try. This helps ensure that your wrists and forearms stay in the neutral position roughly parallel to the floor and that your elbows stay close to the body and bent between 90 and 120 degrees. However, be sure that your keyboard tray provides leg clearance and has an adjustable height and tilt mechanism so you can position it properly. The keyboard tray also should not push you too far away from other work materials and equipment such as your phone.
Be sure that your keyboard tray allows adequate room both for the keyboard and the mouse and that the mouse can be kept close to the keyboard. Ideally, your keyboard tray should have space on either side to allow you to switch over and mouse with your other hand periodically.
Tilt the keyboard tray down and away from you so that you do not have to bend your wrists up to type. Sit with your elbows close to your body and place your hands on your keyboard with your forearms extended naturally. Make sure that your wrists are in a straight line with your forearms. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. The space that you can move your hands over without moving your elbows away from your body is your keyboarding neutral reach zone. For good computer ergonomics, you shouldn’t have to reach out of that zone to use the mouse.
Pull your chair close to your keyboard and position it directly in front of your body. Determine which section of the keyboard you use most often (letters or numbers) and readjust the keyboard so that section is centered with your body. Wrist rests can help you maintain a neutral position and pad hard surfaces. However, the wrist rest should be used only to rest the palms of the hands between keystrokes. Resting on the wrist rest while typing is not recommended and has been linked to injuries. Avoid using excessively wide wrist rests or wrist rests that are higher than the space bar of your keyboard.
Finally, if you don’t have a fully adjustable keyboard tray, adjust your workstation height, the height of your chair, or use a seat cushion to get in a comfortable keyboarding position.