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ealthy Computing Tips

Healthy Computing: Armrests

© Erik Peper PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Healthy Computing Tips by Erik Peper PhD. View all columns in series
Is your chair like an airplane seat, ergonomically designed for most bodies yet uncomfortable for each individual? Although many office chairs have adjustable features, armrests often are too high, too hard or impede movement. If so, they can cause us to raise our shoulders or brace our arms, or tighten up when mousing. Relax your shoulders and arms by checking your ARMRESTS.

How to Check Your Armrests:
Sit comfortably in your chair with your hands on your lap, your shoulders relaxed and your elbows against your trunk. Check your elbow height in relation to the arm rests. If your elbows are lower, you are forced to raise your shoulders when using the armrests. When sitting in this position, you can develop chronic shoulder tension.

Sit with your arms relaxing on the rests. Are they soft and comfortable? Or are they firm and rigid? If not comfortable, you may brace your arms to protect yourself from the discomfort of hard rests.

Pull fully up to your keyboard and mouse and begin working. Do the armrests bump against the keyboard tray? Do you have to twist your wrist or hand to get around the armrest in order to mouse?

If the rests are too high, lower the armrests so that you do not have to raise your shoulders when resting. If too hard, wrap a soft cloth or padding around the armrests. If they constrict movement, check to see if the rests can wing out (banana wing rests).

If you cannot adjust the armrests to suit your body, the best option is to remove them completely (most can be unbolted from the bottom of the chair) and allow your arms to rest on your lap during micro-breaks.

Eliminating the armrests also offers more freedom for "flow typing" where your arms, shoulders and trunk can move instead of being rigid and constricted.

Copyright 2002 Erik Peper, Ph.D. and Katherine Hughes Gibney

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About The Author
Erik Peper, Ph.D. is an international authority on biofeedback and self-regulation. He is Professor and Co-Director of the Institute for Holistic Healing Studies, Department of Health Education, at San Francisco State University. He is President of the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe (2005) and past President of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.......more
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