Workstation solutions - A guide to help you

If sitting at your computer for hours gives you aches and pains, eye strain, or other discomforts, here are some pointers on how to improve the setup of your workstation. Following some of these recommendations may help you prevent both immediate and chronic problems.

A movable seat

The best chair has an adjustable seat height. Adjust it so that your feet rest on the floor (or on a footrest), your legs form a 90 ° angle at the knees, and your thighs are parallel to the floor. It should have good lumbar support and a back tilt adjustment so that you can sit at a slight recline and also shift you upper body position. Don't use the arm rests while typing.

Monitoring the monitor

Position your monitor so that you don't have to turn your body or twist your neck. It should be arm's length away — about 45-65cm / 18-26". Adjust the height so that your eyes are in line with a point about 5-7cm / 2-3" below the top of the monitor. This allows you to keep you head upright with you chin tucked (rather than you head tilted back or you neck flexed forward). If you need to raise the monitor, stack some textbooks, phonebooks, or other stable object underneath. To avoid glare on the screen, place the monitor perpendicular to the window, if possible, and away from direct lighting.

Mouse and keyboard strategies

When working with a mouse or keyboard, your hands should be at elbow height or slightly lower. Keep you elbows at a more open angle rather than flexed, and your forearms, wrists, and hands in a straight line. The keyboard should be at a comfortable distance, not so far away that you have to reach to touch the keys. When typing, relax your shoulders with your elbows close to your sides. When using your mouse, make sure your wrist is straight, not bent to either side; gently cup the mouse with you hand; don't flex your thumb.

Desktop design

Laying papers and books flat on the desk means you have to twist or tilt you head to see them, which can cause neck strain. Instead, use a document holder. Look for one you can place close to the monitor, at the same distance and height; some clip onto the monitor.

Laptop Tips

Despite its name, you should not use your laptop on you lap, since tilting your head to see the screen can also cause neck strain. Wherever you place it, the keyboard should be at elbow height, and your hands and wrists should be in a straight line. If using the touch pad makes you thumb sore, attach an external mouse. If you use you laptop as you home computer, consider getting an external monitor and keyboard that you can adjust better.

No matter how light you laptop is, carrying it around can contribute to back, neck, and shoulder aches. Rather than a shoulder bag, use a padded backpack that distributes the weight more evenly. Or use a wheeled luggage cart. Leave unnecessary peripherals at home to lighten the load.

General tips

  • When working on a computer, take mini-breaks every 20 minutes, or as often as possible. Do shoulder shrugs and some neck, wrist, and low back stretches. Every so often, stand up and do a full-body stretch. There are software programs that can remind you and teach you stretches.
  • Avoid extended periods of time on the computer. Switch to a non computer-related task when you can.
  • To ease eye strain, look away from the monitor every 15 minutes and focus on a distant spot. Then blink for a few seconds to help keep you eyes moist. You may need a special pair of glasses for computer work; talk to you eye doctor.

From the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. Wellness Letter. Volume 23, Issue 2, November 2006. (

Published by: Therapeutic Pillow