The Most Important Thing About Ergonomics That Nobody Talks About

Ergonomics is big business – there is no question about it. The U.S. spends more than $20 billion per year on workers compensation for injuries of all types – with about half of that coming from carpal tunnel.

So, we spend millions of dollars per year on wrist braces and ergonomically-correct workstations – all in the name of reducing carpal tunnel.

And yet…

These ergonomic aids don’t really solve the probleminstead they mask what is really going on, move the problem to a different part of the body, or postpone the inevitable.

Because the problem usually isn’t our workstation setup – it’s that our body is incurring a repetitive motion. And in the case of office workers, pressing keyboard keys is something they do thousands of times per day, all done with the hands and body in the same position. We simply aren’t designed for any sort of excessive repetitive motion, and it eventually takes its toll.

The Secret to Beating Repetitive Motion Syndrome

Move more and regularly vary your working conditions. 

You already know you should move more, so here are some practical ways that almost anyone can modify their work environment:

  • Alternate sitting and standing. The postural differences matter.
  • Switch “mouse hands”. While it will take some time to relearn, by being more mouse-ambidextrous, you reduce the strain on your predominant mouse hand.
  • Switch mouse/tracking devices. I regularly alternate between a mouse, external trackpad, and the trackpad on my laptop.
  • Alternate keyboards. Varying keyboard sizes and configurations will cause you to position your hands, fingers, and arms differently – thus reducing the volume of sheer repetition.

What About an Ergonomic Workspace?

I am of the belief that if you regularly change your body position while working, that most ergonomic problems take care of themselves. But there are still a few things that I think are important.

  • Sit up straight. Sitting hunched over with your shoulders rolled forward and neck craning forward pulls your skeletal system out of alignment and causes improper breathing patterns. (Yes, Mom was right.)
  • Place your primary monitor at eye level. When looking at it, you want to be sitting (or standing) nice and tall and looking straight ahead.
  • Arms should be comfortable. This means that your shoulders are relaxed and down, not scrunched up by your ears.

If you’ve been struggling with workplace-induced aches and pains give these tips a try. I’d also love to hear your secrets to staying pain-free in the workplace, so share them in the comments below.

About Jen Waak

Jen Waak is a health, wellness, and fitness coach that works with entrepreneurs and other crazy-busy professionals to help them have the bodies they want without having to give up their lives. Also the author of the Keyboard Athletes Guide to Pain Relief & Prevention, Jen lives, trains, and coaches in Seattle, WA. Sign up for her no-cost course How to Have the Body You Want (Without Giving Up Your Life) at