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Ergonomics for COWs

CreativeCOW presents Ergonomics for COWs -- Art of the Edit Tutorial

The question was asked in the Avid Editing COW: 'After eight years of working on a computer, my wrist hurts within an hour. Anyone else getting carpel tunnel? What can I do to prevent major damage?' Dave Anselmi, a T'ai Ch'i Instructor for over 10 years and whose friend is an Ergonomics Specialist, was quick to the rescue with this great advice.



The question was asked in the Avid Editing COW: "After eight years of working on a computer, my wrist hurts within an hour. Anyone else getting carpel tunnel? What can I do to prevent major damage?" Dave Anselmi, a T'ai Ch'i Instructor for over 10 years -- whose friend is an Ergonomics Specialist -- was quick to the rescue with this great advice drawn from the combined experience of Dave and his friend...

My friend is an Ergonomics Specialist and I have been a T'ai Ch'i Instructor for 10-odd years, between us we've created a program to avoid the common repetitive stress disorders that frequently affect people whose work is predominantly computer-related. This advice is:

1. Wrists begin to ache when the wrist is bent or pronated , for long periods of time, especially if there is (fine) motor-action of the fingers (i.e., like using a mouse, or writing). The mechanics of this is that the tendons are stretched through the little "tunnel" in the wrist-bone. They swell over time, pressing the nerve against the bone, causing pain/trauma.

  • Solve this by keeping your wrists as straight as possible. From the tip of your middle-finger to the point of your elbow should be a straight line. Lots of people have learned to keep their wrists from bending 'back', i.e. using a wrist-rest to keep the wrists from dropping below the level of the keyboard.

  • HOWEVER , most people do not notice when they turn/twist their wrists to the side... this is often done when the G and H keys on the keyboard are not exactly in front of your sternum/bellybutton. This latter kind of twist over time causes carpal tunnel syndrome as well. Look down at your keyboard and notice if G and H are not in front of you. Since the "9-Key" part of the keyboard extends to the right, that means the keyboard as a whole will not be "lined-up" in front of your body; it will be pushed-over to the right a bit.

2. Whole-Body posture. Wrist-posture is only a minor issue with "Carpal Tunnel". As the children's ditty goes: wrist-bone connected to the elbow-bone, to the shoulder-bone, etc. In actuality, wrist aches are not terrible... what is terrible is when the ache extends to elbow, then shoulder, then neck. By this point, doctors usually advise surgery.

This ongoing, agonizing, and expensive pain can be avoided with good body posture, as follows:

A) Feet flat on the floor, shins perpendicular to the floor, thighs parallel to the floor. This places your weight firmly on your tailbone/coccyx, and reduces pressure/strain on (in-order ) lower-back, upper-back, shoulders, neck, chest, then thighs, etc..

  • If you habitually raise your feet on your toes, this creates tension in the lower-back, upper-back/neck and thighs. This tension will eventually transfer from your neck to your wrists.

  • Solve this by either (a) lowering your chair, or (b) getting a foot-rest to raise your feet. Keep your feet close enough to your chair, so that the calves drop straight into the heels of the feet. Put them too far in front of you, pressure is placed on your chest; too close in, pressure on your lower-back.

B) Upper body straight-up, weight of torso dropping through the spine into the sacrum/tailbone. Ideally, it's best to sit on the forward edge of your chair, with the chair (slightly) tilted forwards. This encourages the weight to fall into the correct part of the butt, i.e. the tailbone. It's no coincidence this is the proper posture for seated meditation; using crossed-legs Lotus posture creates a similar 'balance' on the tailbone... but I can't really expect you guys to do that by the way, the Aeron chair allows the arms-rests to spread-open, allowing Lotus posture just fine ;-D

  • If you are wedded to the idea of "I really MUST lean-back in my chair occasionally"... this means you're half way there. 99.9% of T'ai Ch'i is learning to be conscious of your body... and you're already conscious! Your body is saying "MY BACK IS TIRED!!!!".

  • So, get up from your chair and walk around for 15minutes. Focus your eyes on a blank, featureless white surface for 30 seconds or more. This will allow your back and eyes to 'recharge'... when you come-back, you won't feel that need to "slump" again.

  • You should be doing this every hour anyway. Notice how much better you feel after a week of this, and how much less pain-killers you are taking ;-D

C) Head straight up, eyes looking forward. If the head has to lean forward or back, on an ongoing basis, this causes neck tension, which is transferred to the shoulders, elbows, then wrists.

  • A great way to align your neck and spine, is to "pretend" that a string is attached to the crown of your head. Allow your body to be suspended from that string. Notice how your head, neck, and spine "dangles" from that string. Now place a chair under your "dangling" butt, and there you go -- perfect spinal alignment. ;-D

  • The monitor height is VERY important. To maximize viewing without head-motion, it's best to have the eyes looking (directly) at 1/4 to 1/5 down from the top of the viewable screen... tilting the neck down is often better than tilting up.

  • Raise or lower your monitor to the proper height and line it up in front of you with your nose, navel, and G+H on your keyboard.

D) Forearms parallel to the floor, upper-arms perpendicular to the floor. Wrists should lightly "rest" on the wrist-pad. The hands should "point" from the arms, and the arms point inwards, forming an isosceles triangle whose base is at the sternum. If the arms are 'forward', i.e. the upper-arms are not dangling down, this creates tension on biceps and chest. If the upper-arms are pushed back, this "closes the back", squeezing the shoulder-blades together, and creates tension there.

  • Fix this using wrist pads, moving the keyboard, etc. When the desk/keyboard/wrist-pad is at the proper height and distance from your torso, the upper-arms will be free to 'dangle' downwards, perpendicular to the floor.


Finally, (gentle) exercising is wonderfully effective to reducing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. You can do these while sitting in your chair, but it's best to do them in fresh air. Get outside if you can.

  • Roll the wrists, neck, shoulders, and ankles . Add-in rolls of other major joints as you'd like, especially hips and knees.

  • Gently stretch the hands 'back'. GENTLY! This will help exercise those tendons going through the tunnel in the wrist-bone, and decrease their swelling... causing less pressure on the nerves, and decreasing the 'tingly' feeling in the wrists which is the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

  • Get outside and get fresh air. This helps your body IMMEASURABLY to reduce tension/stress: mentally (distracts your mind from tension-causing problems) , and physically (fresh air, among other things, helps the body to release toxins through the skin, which helps the liver and kidneys, which are under tension when the lower back gets tense) .


HTH,

Dave Anselmi

©2003 Dave Anselmi and Creativecow.net. All rights reserved.


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