Ergonomics and the Dark Side of Touch Typing


touch_typing_ergonomics_carpal_tunnelTouch typing: it makes our lives easier, our performance on the job more efficient and our work, accurate.  Students use it to write papers in record time, employees compete for high paying jobs with a secure future and entrepreneurs make their living with this one seemingly simple skill.

But even with all of these benefits, touch typing has a dark side.  A side which many new typists are unaware of until it is too late. It starts out with a little stiffness between the shoulder blades one day.  Maybe a sore wrist or stiff neck the next and before long, you find it difficult to keep up with your work.  You try shifting in your seat or purchasing a wrist rest to take the pressure off, yet nothing seems to work.

“Is touch typing supposed to hurt,” you ask yourself?

Well, the short answer is, “no”.

You see, it’s all about ergonomics, that’s the key.  Many of us never learn the proper way of sitting while typing.  Even if we do, we might find ourselves in working in an environment that forces us to adopt bad typing habits.

Poor posture, keyboards placed up too high, chairs with no lumbar support and computer screens too far away or at an awkward angle all create a recipe for touch typing disaster.

The symptoms of touch typing in a poorly designed office space go far beyond carpal tunnel syndrome.  In fact, that’s only one of the many aches and pains typists suffer from.  Others include shoulder, neck and even upper arm and forearm pain.

So, how do you make sure that you don’t meet touch typing’s painful dark side?

There is no one size fits all solution but, here are a few suggestions that can help prevent and even ease existing pain:

Streeeetch!

When sitting in one position for too long muscles and joints become stiff and achy.  The solution is to get up and stretch periodically.  The key is to stretch the minute that you begin to feel tension or weakness – waiting until the muscles are completely fatigued means it’s too late.

Make sure to not only focus on the areas where you feel tension but, the connecting areas as well.  Stretch out your chest, shoulders, arms – even your legs.  Our muscles work in harmony with each other and stiffness in one area can affect your posture, causing pain in another.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is based off of the idea of having short bursts of productivity with short periods of rest and relaxation.

Here’s how it works: using the Pomodoro technique, you work straight through your task for a full 25 minutes then, take a 5 minute break.  During your break, try sitting back and relaxing, laying down and meditating, stretching, doing jumping jacks or anything that gets you to relax and give your muscles and eyes a rest.

To make your life easier, try using an egg timer to time your productivity and rest periods or, you can also use the Tomato Timer right on your computer.

Position Yourself Just Right

Some people swear by using a laptop to get the best positioning of their body while typing.  Though laptops are useful and versatile for switching up your posture, many times they aren’t an option.

If you are working in an office with a desktop or using laptop but have limited seating options, experiment with making some adjustments.  Try adjusting the angle of your screen, the position of your keyboard and mouse.

One factor people often overlook: seat height.  Adjusting the height of your seat can make a world of difference in reducing upper back, shoulder and neck strain.  Try positioning your seat so that your arms hang naturally and comfortably in a bent position.  If you look like a t-rex sitting at your computer, your chair is too low!

These are just a few of the techniques available to help you create a comfortable and safe touch typing experience.  Remember, touch typing doesn’t have to be painful.  Avoid the darkside and enjoy the benefits of touch typing for years to come.

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