Making Your Workspace More Ergonomic

February 16, 2005

Ergonomic WorkspaceIf you spend a good deal of time at the computer, then you will want to make your workspace more ergonomic in order to avoid the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.



  • Make sure your desktop is a comfortable height for the tasks you will be performing: writing (28-30 inches), mousing (27-29 inches), or typing (26-28 inches).
  • The ideal desk has a pullout, height-adjustable keyboard tray and mouse platform.


  • Your chair should have both height and back adjustment features.
  • Ideally you want a chair that reclines slightly. Sitting erect or leaning forward increases the strain on the lower back, whereas reclined postures relax the body. Plus, the upper and lower back are well supported by the chair, and back muscle activity and lumbar disc pressure are low.


  • The keyboard should be placed just above the level of your lap. This lets your arms tilt downward slightly while using the keyboard, leaving your elbows at a comfortable "open" angle.
  • Place your keyboard so that the space bar is roughly the same height as your elbows and the letter "B" key is lined up with your belly button.

  • You shouldn't have to raise your shoulders to get your hands to reach the keyboard - try raising your chair instead.
  • While typing, your keyboard should lay flat or with a slightly DOWNward slope - don't prop up the back of your keyboard or extend the 'feet'.


  • Your mouse should be at approximately the same level as your keyboard, and positioned close to your keyboard so that you don't have to reach.
  • If your wrist extends upward when your hand is over the mouse, then it's not an "ergonomic" mouse. A flatter and broader mouse can reduce side-to-side wrist deviation which often results in the most damage.
  • Don't hold the mouse (or rest your hand on it) when you don't have to. Any time you're not browsing with the mouse, your fingers should be relaxed at your sides -- "recharging" with a fresh supply of blood-flow, rather than becoming fixated in one position.


  • You should place your monitor at least 20 inches away. If you have difficulty seeing it at this distance, then enlarge the image on the screen.
  • Tilting your head too far back or too far forward for extended periods will put too much strain on the neck.


  • An armrest allows you to rest the area of your forearm that lies halfway between your wrist and elbow, without any pressure on any part of the arm. Look for armrests with height and width adjustment features.
  • Arm and wrist rests should be approximately the same thickness as the bottom of your keyboard. Not thicker! And they should be used to rest the heel of your PALM, not the wrist itself.
  • Wrist rests should not be used as actual resting places for your wrists WHILE typing. Instead they should be used as a place to rest your wrists between periods of typing. This is because wrist rests (especially the very soft, cushioned kind) actually contour to the wrists, encouraging too many bad wrist twisting movements.

  • If your chair has armrests, they should comfortably support your elbows during rest BREAKS, rather than WHILE you are typing.


  • When seated at the computer, make sure that your feet are supported and the area behind your knees is not compressed. You can also use a footrest (or a pile of books or a box) to alleviate the pressure behind the knees.
  • To keep your back in the best position while seated at the computer, place a pillow or backrest between you and the chair back. Or, use a rolled up towel.

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