Trying to improve posture

I’ve been suffering pain in the backs of my hands for a couple of weeks now, it comes on when I type and use a mouse. As a website manager and programmer, I can’t realistically type and I don’t currently have the money to buy voice recognition software. I’ve booked a doctor’s appointment and in the meantime I’m attempting to improve my posture, so far I’ve lowered my chair so that my feet can rest flat on the floor, my legs now parallel with the floor, I put the keyboard on my lap and since the chair I work in has armrests, I rest my forearms but not my elbows on the armrests. this seems to put my hands and wrists in a much better position, however, I still have to put the mouse on the desk which means I have to reach up to it now. Ideally I’d go and buy a new desk but there isn’t the money. The desk I have is at a writing height, not a keyboard height. I can think of 2 ways to get around this and wondered if anyone had seen anything like them or if anyone has any other suggestions.

  1. Something I could clamp onto the front of my desk that would give me a lower platform to put the mouse and keyboard on.
  2. Some form of freestanding table to put just the mouse and keyboard on. This would need to be height adjustable would fit under my desk and would sit over my knees.

(I realise this isn’t high tech, just a small table, wondered if anyone is marketing these as an RSI solution) Thanks in advance anyone who answers.

Comment 1: It is important to keep your body at right angles, as I’m sure you know. If your desk is too high, try putting your chair up so you can get decent posture for your arms and shoulders. If this means your feet are ‘dangling’, then use a phone book, or something similar as a foot rest. I have recently had problems with my legs which has not been fun. Please get your work station sorted out. I am sure others will agree. Also, have regular breaks, sort out your computer so it auto saves regularly, thus forcing you to have breaks! Pace yourself. Practice relaxation techniques and don’t go hard out at the keyboard (or the mouse which is worse)-you’ll only make the problem worse!

Comment 2: Option one you describe is often commercially referred to as a keyboard shelf or tray – these bring the height of the work surface down and as you rightly say will allow you to place your feet flat on the floor. Another option you did not mention is a footrest (try a few phone books on the floor as a trial – although ultimately one with height and angular adjustment is preferred). A footrest essentially raises the height of the floor whilst still supporting your feet (you mentioned the need to lower the height of your seat) and brings you up to the correct height for typing as opposed to lowering your desk height.

Either way will help you to keep your forearms roughly parallel whilst typing (and in the neutral position) with your upper arms hanging relaxed at their sides – although the design of the keyboard, chair and work surface thickness are also important/relevant to the solution. For example your work surface thickness should ideally be no more than about 40mm etc. to allow for the small distance between your elbows (when typing) and the top of your thighs etc.

Comment 3: As well as changing the layout of your workstation, you may find it helps to alter the way you type. I started getting pains in the backs of my hands about 10 months ago: sometimes the pain extended up my wrists and into my forearms, and it lasted all through my fortnight’s holiday in August, when I didn’t go anywhere near a keyboard or mouse. (I used to keep my arms bandaged – it seemed to help relieve the pain.) I made all the improvements I could to my workstation, but I think that the most important changes involved the way I type. I used to type very fast, hitting the keys hard: now I type more slowly, and try to press and release the keys, rather than striking them sharply. I think too that the pains in my hands were caused by the fact that my fingers were permanently bent, curled up so that all the fingertips were in line over the home keys – the way I was taught to hold them when I learnt to type years ago. Now I try to keep my fingers relaxed, not quite straight but almost. I bend them to touch the keys, but try to straighten them out in between keystrokes.

I take my hands off the keyboard frequently, and rest them flat on the desk. I also altered the line of my forearms and wrists, so that forearms/wrists/hands are now in a straight line, and meet in a V-shape over the keyboard – this is hard to describe without being able to draw a diagram! Before, I held my forearms in such a way that my hands were parallel over the keyboard, and my wrists were uncomfortably bent outwards relative to my forearms. In this position, using either of my thumbs to hit the space bar was very painful. I’ve also tried to replace mouse use by keyboard commands wherever possible.

It seems to me that when I learnt to type we were actually taught to strike the keys sharply, to hold our fingers permanently over the home keys, and to try to keep our hands parallel over the keyboard. All of these things I’ve been doing for years, believing I was doing it right, and now I find I have to change them. What are people being taught nowadays when they learn to use a keyboard? Still these positions which put stress on your hands? Or have there been changes? I would guess that permanently drumming your fingers on a hard surface is likely to cause damage to your hands sooner or later – however good your posture is, and however stress-free your life.

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