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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Do you ever find yourself rubbing and stretching your wrists after a long day at work? Do you frequently have shoulder and neck tension after a long day typing and mousing?    The United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration says the culprit could easily be improper keyboard height and/or distance. Proper keyboard placement can help prevent repetition injuries, awkward posture and stress.

Keyboards that are too high or too low can lead to awkward wrist, arm, and shoulder postures. For example, when keyboards are too low you may type with your wrists bent up. When keyboards are too high, you may need to raise your shoulders to elevate your arms. Performing typing tasks in awkward postures such as these can result in hand, wrist and shoulder discomfort.

Here are some possible height-related solutions the OSHA recommends:

  • Image courtesy of OSHA

    Adjust the chair height and work surface height to maintain a neutral body posture (illustrated here). Elbows should be about the same height as the keyboard and hang comfortably to the side of the body. Shoulders should be relaxed, and wrists should not bend up or down or to either side during keyboard use.

  • Remove central pencil drawers from traditional desks if you can’t raise your chair high enough because of contact between the drawer and the top of the thighs. The work surface should generally be no more than 2 inches thick.
  • may be needed if the work surface or chair cannot be properly adjusted. The keyboard tray should:
    • Be adjustable in height and tilt,
    • Provide adequate leg and foot clearance, and
    • Have adequate space for multiple input devices (for example, a keyboard and pointer/mouse).
  • The keyboard’s vertical position should be maintained within the recommended range shown here. The tilt of the keyboard may need to be raised or lowered using the keyboard feet to maintain straight, neutral wrist postures while accommodating changes in arm angles.

    Image courtesy of OSHA

If your keyboard or mouse  is too close or too far away this may cause you to assume awkward postures such as reaching with the arms, leaning forward with the torso and extreme elbow angles. These awkward postures may lead to musculoskeletal disorders of the elbows, shoulders, hands, and wrists.

Keyboard too far away (courtesy OSHA)

Keyboard too close (courtesy OSHA)

Here are some possible distance-related solutions the OSHA recommends:

  • Place the keyboard directly in front of you at a distance that allows your elbows to stay close to your body with your forearms approximately parallel with the floor.
  • A keyboard tray may be useful if you have limited desk space or if your chair has armrests that interfere with adequate positioning.

Making these simple changes may make a world of difference for you in your workplace and your neck and shoulders. Give them a try and feel the difference!

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