Question: My hands and fingers keep going numb when I use my computer. I have to find a way to keep my hands working. It is especially bad when I am using the mouse. What can I do?
This is a VERY common issue nowadays. I did an interview with a reporter on this topic not long ago who was writing on this very topic. The comment she really liked found its way into page one of the Wall Street Journal: "The personal computer is to chiropractic what sugar has always been for dentists."
The computer is part of life now as much as the cell phone. We can't imagine life without it. Here are some pointers—see how you can tailor your work situation to help yourself out.
Use the Mouse or Input Device Safely
The further you reach to hold and use the mouse, the more strain you place on your neck and shoulder. There are alternative techniques and equipment that may improve your mousing.
• Change your position to keep your elbows relaxed at your sides with the mouse directly in front of you, not to the side. This decreases the stress on your shoulders.
• For precision tasks, move the mouse from the wrist, not the fingers.
• Make sure the mouse fits your hand. If it is too small, squeezing the mouse may cause hand cramping. This also places strain on your wrist and may cause pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel.
• Remove watches or bracelets that interfere with movement. Don't lose them—another stressor!
• If you keep resting on your wrist, consider putting a thin gel pad under it for support.
• Adjust your cursor speed. If it is too fast, you will grip the mouse tighter to gain control. If it is too slow, you will repeatedly grasp and pick up the mouse to reposition it.
Take Advantage of New Technology
• A keyboard that has a detached number pad or one positioned on the left can help keep your elbows relaxed. For significant amounts typing, simply slide the chair to center it in front of the keyboard.
• If you need to draw, graphics tablets can help. These call for a more natural and relaxed position of the hand, wrist, and forearm. They also encourage healthier whole-arm movement and reduce contact pressure on the sensitive carpal tunnel. Once you are used to graphics tablets, they offer increased control and precision. Choose the smallest tablet that lets you work comfortably.
• A second trackball or mouse on the left of the keyboard allows you to give your right arm a break. Use the secondary device for e-mail, navigating documents and the internet, and other non-precision tasks.
Adjust Your Monitor
• Center the screen in front of you.
• If you use two monitors and use each screen equally, place them so you are seated where they meet in the middle, so you look to the left and to the right equally.
• If you use one monitor more than the other, place the primary monitor centered in front of you and the secondary monitor directly next to it, slightly angled toward you.
• The screen should be about an arm's length away.
• Place the top line of the glass of the monitor at eye level. If you use bifocals, lower the screen slightly until your head is level and you are not looking upward.
• To reduce eye strain, adjust the brightness and contrast controls, as well as the ambient room light, to make them equal.
• Avoid glare. Place the monitor perpendicular to windows or draw the blinds. A glare filter can also help.
• Take the time to adjust the chair to fit you.
• If you have neck or shoulder discomfort, raise the armrest of your chair to support your forearm without pushing the shoulder toward the ear.
• The ideal chair for these types of jobs places you in an upright posture and encourages full arm movement. A pear-shaped back design provides spinal support while freeing your shoulder blade and arm to move properly. I am trying a great chair in the clinic now. If you want to see and try it, drop in.
There is great dictation software available. I just added it to my system to help me in my documentation. They have a new Mac version, too. Again, if you'd like to see it in action, drop by the clinic, and I will dictate something for you.
Take Care of Yourself
Sometimes a simple adjustment in the spine and wrists will make all the difference in the world.
Hope this helps! Happy Mousketeering!