Monday, April 12, 2010

The Art of Posturing

Stress caused by computers is on the rise, but the right posture and good accessories can save you some pain

At times, working on the computer can be a pain, quite literally. Most of us tend to slump on our chairs within a few minutes, giving ourselves awkward postures which we tend to maintain for hours. Everything from the computer monitor to the mouse are positioned in ways that will lead to aches and pains, even muscular damage.
With the increasing instances of work-related musculoskeletal damage, many companies are focusing on creating ergonomic designs. Ergonomics is the science of how the human body does work; it studies body mechanics of how bones and muscles work together and looks for ways to prevent musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, that can cause pain. "Our focus on ergonomics is helping people work safely and avoid injury, but it is about a lot more than that. Designing for the way people work also means making work more fun, more comfortable, and more efficient," says Jamieson Yu, Director, Hardware of Microsoft Operations, which recently announced a slew of ergonomic products.A look at ideal workplace scenarios and products that can reduce pain and musculoskeletal damage:

THE COMPUTER MONITOR: The computer monitor should be placed 18 to 28 inches from the head, anything closer could cause visual fatigue. The ideal distance will depend on the length of the user's arms and ability to read comfortably. The user's body and the PC must be placed in a same line and ensure that the top edge of the screen is at or below eye level.Almost all monitors available in the market have ergonomic designs, just make sure that you position them suitably, reducing exposure to compelling exertions, inept postures, and overhead glare.To optimise your monitor further, change the font to what is best for you to read. Adjust brightness, it should be enough to see easily, but not fuzzy. Screen should be crisp and sharp. Screen flicker too leads to visual fatigue; the screen refresh rate should be between 70-85 Hertz per second. You can change this at screen setting> advanced> monitor.

THE KEYBOARD: The user's forearms and wrists should be level while using a keyboard. If it is bent up or down you put pressure on your wrists and forearms. While working, only your lower back and posterior should come in contact with the chair. Feet should be flat on the floor, not stretched or pushed back behind chair. Shoulders must be aligned with the keyboard and monitor, head directly above in balance. Traditional keyboards have higher keys in the back than the front, causing you have to angle your palms and fingers upward while ergonomic keyboards have a flat design that lets your wrists stay in a more neutral position.
The basic Microsoft Wired Keyboard 200 (Rs 500) for instance has height adjustable feet that give you the ideal position for typing. The more advanced Wireless Desktop 3000 (Rs 3,100 with mouse) has a comfort curve design that encourages natural hand and wrist positioning for comfort and productivity. Amkette's wireless WF 301 (Rs 2,995), on the other hand, has an inbuilt mouse in the form of an 800-DPI trackball and click keys on both sides.
Taking it a step further is the Logitech cordless desktop MX 5500 Revolution with a soft touch palm rest that helps position your hands comfortably on the keyboard. Its comfort wave design keeps you from having to twist into an unnatural position while typing and the gently curving rows of keys support the natural resting position of your hands without splitting the keyboard. However, this superior ergonomics will cost you Rs 11,495.

THE MOUSE: You might not have a thought of it, but the mouse too has a high risk factor. Repetitive actions on the mouse can lead to stress disorders like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Plus the awkward posture of holding the mouse can cause contact stress. So it is important to find the ideal height, distance and angle at which to keep the mouse.Microsoft's Wireless mobile Mouse 4000 and Optical Mouse 200 (Rs 430) have both been designed to give a perfect angle and grip — they also give a familiar shape for either hand. 
But the ideal angle for the hand would be that of a handshake, and this is what Logitech Performance Mouse has tried to recreate. It also has an added non-slip rubber grip to increase friction and make it easier to hold and grab without squeezing, while the profile reduces the angle you need to extend your wrist. But the Performance mouse is priced at a steep Rs 7,595.

LAPTOPS: Those using notebooks and netbooks must also be careful of their posture. Often the angle at which you type on the notebook can cause musculoskeletal disorders. It is better to use a riser to raise the screen to an optimal viewing position if you work on the notebook for long hours.Logitech's Notebook Riser N110 (Rs 1,595), for instance, features an adjustable tilt — with 20-, 30- and 40-degree angles — and a rubber-soled swivel base, so you can choose the position that best suits you.Now, just sit straight and work.

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