Long hours in front of the computer

Ask the Raffles Medical Group Experts


As a result of the downturn, I find myself working longer hours as I have to take over my retrenched colleague’s workload. I read somewhere that spending many hours on the keyboard can result in neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist aches. How can I reduce the chances of having to make a visit to my doctor for these problems?


Continuous work on the computer may expose your shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand to awkward postures and repetitive work injuries. To keep those joints working for longer without the pains, make sure your keyboard is of the correct height and your elbow about five centimetres from your body when you type. The further away from your body the more stress is placed on your scapular muscles. Your elbow should bend about 90 degrees when you are typing and resting on the keyboard. When using the mouse or typing, make sure the back of your wrist is flat most of the time as excessive bending may narrow the passage of the nerve transversing your wrist. You can achieve this by adjusting the slope of your keyboard and the level of your mouse.

Do not rest your wrist on the mouse when you are not using it as this will cause your wrist to be extended for prolonged periods. Press the keys gently and do not bang on them. This lightens the stress on your finger joints. Every 15 minutes take a “micro break” by breaking the monotony of your keyboard work so that the group of muscles you are working on can take a break and the other muscle groups can come into play. Every hour take a “macro break” by leaving your workstation and walk around to lighten the stress on your back and muscle groups that have maintained your posture for the past hour. Your chair should be comfortable so that your feet can be rested flat on the ground. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor. The back of the knee should not touch the edge of the chair. Sit upright with the lower back and shoulder resting against the backrest. If your chair does not have a natural back arch, get a rolled up towel or cushion to support your lower back.