In today’s article, we will take a closer look at the ideal carpal tunnel desk setup and we will go through a list of things that aim to improve your current condition. Here’s what we are going to cover:
- The Correlation between CTS and Desk Setup
- It Is Time to Choose an Ergonomic Setup?
- Essential Items for Desk Setup to Keep CTS at Bay
- 1. Height Adjustable Desk
- 2. Ergonomic Chair
- 3. Adjustable Monitor
- 4. Palm Rest/Mouse Pad and Wrist Brace/Splint
- 5. Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse
- 6. Keyboard Tray
- 7. Ergonomic Pens
- 8. Computer Glasses
But first things first… are you reading this post from your work desk? Well, just check your spinal position. Certainly, it will be bending over to read the screen. Now, you may be adjusting your posture to keep it straight.
Although you may feel comfortable while bending, the fact is that your spine will not. It is one of the most common habits exhibited at sitting desks, which are known to inflict lasting health disorders. Apart from these habits, even incorrect desk setup leads to such disorders, starting with back pain and energy plunges.
While a lot of time is spent on a work desk, many of us do not recognize that the workspace or desk area is not friendly to your body posture. This is recognized when pain and stiffness in the shoulders, wrist, arms, and neck start bothering you at the end of the day.
How about exercises?
You may think that exercising will be your best prevention remedy. However, it does not address the root cause, which is an inapt desk setup. Not treating this root cause is likely to result in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) that inflames the nerves of the neck, arms, shoulders, wrists, and fingers.
Thus, along with exercising, you also need to set your desk such that you are motivated to sustain a good posture while sustaining your joints in a healthy alignment. This post aims to guide you in setting a friendly workspace whether you are at home or office to protect you from critical conditions such as CTS and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).
The Correlation between CTS and Desk Setup
CTS is a common issue observed in many desktop workers who spend maximum time daily sitting at a desk and working with a computer, mouse, and keyboard. It triggers when the median nerve gets too much pressed at the wrist. This nerve goes from the forearm to the palm and passes via the carpal tunnel at the hand’s bottom.
Overuse of the tissues around the tunnel results in inflammation that compresses the median nerve. As a result, one faces pain, tingling, and numbness in fingers, wrists, and hands. Initially, these symptoms may not be bothersome.
However, if not treated, they can result in debilitating discomfort such that one can feel it tough to type easily. Some desk users suffer from the severe condition of CTS due to which they become unable to earn a living using any working position demanding constant wrist flexing.
Two major causes of this inflammation are frequent flexing of wrists and excessive typing without giving proper support to wrists and hands. As desk jobs involve much typing, it is tough for the typists to get rid of the syndrome without making proper changes to their desks to ensure friendlier positions for strain-free hands.
It Is Time to Choose an Ergonomic Setup?
Even before reaching the point where medical care becomes essential, you can alleviate the mild symptoms of CTS by setting up an ergonomic workstation. The concept of ergonomics refers to using and sustaining the right postures throughout your work time such that you do not end up injuring yourself.
It is the science of making the desk area such that it fits the worker’s body instead of making the worker physically conform to the desk area. Ergonomics has gained popularity among those who are increasingly facing musculoskeletal symptoms due to poor desk design and longer work time.
Computer users are now focusing on their health due to the pain and discomfort encountered at work, which has surged interest in ergonomic desk setup. Despite this, many of them conform their body to the workplace, which is the current major cause of fatigue and pain.
As a fact, we do not realize how many adjustments we make subtly while comforting to the work area. These involve reaching the mouse, pulling the chair up, and hunching forward to read properly. However, each of them is likely pushing your health towards CTS or RIS.
To prevent such unfriendly adjustments, an ergonomic setup is essential. It is what the workers with CTS or RSI demand on priority. For the same, they prefer a perfect carpal tunnel desk setup featuring:
- Standing desk with a mat on the hard floor,
- Means to keep arms straight,
- A desk or chair that is adjustable to avoid bending or putting pressure on wrists, and
- Some support to wrists and elbows so that they can relax and face no strain during repetitive motions.
Essential Items for Desk Setup to Keep CTS at Bay
Interestingly, these days, you can easily find the best workstation essentials or supplies at online stores or a local supply store to keep carpal tunnel syndrome at bay. The most common feature in all of them is that they are ergonomically designed. For example, you can easily find ergonomic keyboards, mice, and pens.
You may feel that these items could be costly. However, they are far more affordable than the cost of treating a chronic low back condition. Further, studies have found that an ergonomic desk space not only can alleviate pain and injury but also help in increasing productivity. With this proven benefit in mind, here are the ergonomic items you need to consider for your health-friendly desk setup:
1. Height Adjustable Desk
An ergonomic desk is a must-have for working carpal tunnel desk setup. An adjustable desk is certainly an ideal choice, as it allows setting its height at your level of comfort, which is likely to differ from one task to another.
One more commendable ability of such a desk is the ability to allow you to work in a sitting or standing pose. Sitting throughout your work time is not good for your health. It has been scientifically proven that it can lead to back injury and hypertension. Similarly, standing throughout the day can be strenuous.
Thus, it is wise to choose a desk that can switch between the two postures. If your wrist joints and tissues feel tired, just change the sitting desk to a standing one. You can even find desk risers that can work with your current desk to make it adjustable.
2. Ergonomic Chair
It has been found that more than half of people in the commercial world have some type of back pain, of which many accuse the poor chair design. Sitting almost for 8 to 18 hours in any chair daily means inviting all types of disorders, starting with the lower back, hip, and neck pain.
In most situations where there is a standard desktop, people tend to sit surprisingly high on their chairs so that they can access the mouse and keyboard. This invites an array of health risks including musculoskeletal disorders.
So, what is the right sitting posture? Well, an ergonomic chair can facilitate that for you. Thus, having one such chair is an important part of your perfect carpal tunnel desk setup.
Many options exist when it is a matter of investing in an ergonomic chair. Sadly, some manufacturers simply use the tag of ‘ergonomic’ without actually giving any major related benefit. Thus, for finding a genuinely ergonomic chair, you need to consider the following features:
- Height adjustability through which you should sit with thighs parallel to the floor and feet flat on the floor
- Sufficient depth of around 17 inches if the seat is fixed and between 14 to 18 inches for an adjustable seat
- Aptly curving backrest to give sufficient support to your lumbar or lower back
- Reclining 135 degrees back and tilting ability using tension knob for alleviating spinal stress as well as back pain
- Fixed armrests, not adjustable although pivotable within to support your whole forearm while using a keyboard
- Enough breathable cushioning to make you feel supportive and comfortable
Things you should know about ergonomic chairs
It is essential to change your sitting pose at suitable intervals to maintain even blood circulation throughout the body. One way to ensure this is to use an ergonomic kneeling chair along with your normal chair. The former relieves the lower back tension that occurs by sitting in a normal chair for a prolonged period. Switching between these two is likely to alleviate pain, fatigue, and strain effectively.
A good ergonomic chair will come with maximum adjustability features. The more they are, the better it is for your health. You should choose a quality model that ensures a consistent, comfortable experience even during extended use.
In case of a very tall desk, do not look for a tall chair. Rather, buy an ergonomic chair and a footrest to adjust the height. Even if you buy the best ergonomic chair, your work is only half done. The remaining half is done by knowing how to operate its ergonomic utilities.
It is a fact that these chairs are complex for most people to use for adjustability benefits. Thus, it is worth spending some time studying its knobs and adjustability features to get the maximum out of it.
3. Adjustable Monitor
Did you know that an unsuitable height, angle, and distance of your computer monitor can force you to bend forward and trigger pain in the neck and shoulders? Well, sadly, placing the monitor right is what most workers or users do not think of when they start feeling mild CTS symptoms. This is because they mostly accuse the chair or desk for the same.
So, a perfect carpal tunnel desk setup also involves a monitor in the right position. You should place it about 20 inches away from you or at the distance of your arm’s length. If closer, it will hurt your eyes. If placed farther, you will bend forward for reading.
Further, the monitor should be at 10 to 20 degrees of inclination. Anything higher will strain your head and neck, as the head will be in an uncomfortable position. Further, the screen’s top line must be at eye level. Otherwise, you would have to lean your head back for reading, which can result in neck pain.
With these position settings to consider, it is high time to get rid of fixed-stand monitors. Consider an adjustable one, as it is truly ergonomic. You can easily find an adjustable monitor or an adjustable stand for your monitor if you do not wish to get rid of your current one.
4. Palm Rest/Mouse Pad and Wrist Brace/Splint
Putting a wrist splint and a palm rest are among the most popular work items that prevent the development of RIS and CTS. They are certainly a part of an ergonomic workspace.
A wrist splint or brace prevents turning the wrists and hands to different positions that are known to strain the median nerve. It also supports the area beneath the wrist. It is also likely to alleviate inflammation by squeezing the affected muscles and tendons. However, you need to choose an ideal brace or splint, as otherwise it can increase inflammation if too tight or weaken muscles with overuse.
When it comes to using a palm rest, rest the palms’ heels on its cushions for proper support. As a substitute, you can even use a mouse pad along with the wrist brace.
5. Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse
If you blame your chair for leaning forward most of the time, it is time to rethink. Although you lose contact with the backrest and be a victim of low back disorder, the problem is not only with the chair. Just take a look at your keyboard. Where it is positioned?
A solid carpal tunnel desk setup can’t do without professional accessories. Poorly designed and improper positioning of mice and keyboards are common causes of RIS, CTS, and tendinitis. It is critical to put your keyboard and mouse in the right position and at the right angle, which can make you ditch your current models in use for the ergonomic ones.
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What’s the correct position to keep my keyboard?
You should ideally keep your keyboard in your lap just as a laptop such that the shoulders are relaxed, the palms are supported, and the wrists are straight. It is essential to put both mouse and keyboard closer to yourself so that you can put the body’s weight to the chair’s backrest and experience improved comfort.
An apt sitting pose governs the place of your keyboard. It should ideally be in front such that you can comfortably access it with your elbows at your sides instead of them being at the rear or in front. In case of a number pad, you need to adjust it as per the letters, which means positioning it such that the B key is in the front of your navel.
You also need to place the keyboard at a good angle, which is negative 15 degrees. In simple words, the board should slant away from you. Well, this is something that a traditional keyboard is less likely to provide, as it is flat and has two small feet for tilting towards you due to which you type while your wrists being flexed.
Thus, it is ideal to invest in an ergonomic keyboard or a tray to enjoy the essential negative tilt for retaining wrists and hands in a neutral position while at computer work. For a more neutral posture, it is worth investing in an articulating keyboard that can angle it far from the body.
Along with the right sitting posture, the desk height also governs the keyboard’s as well as the mouse’s height. The right height is when the wrists remain straight and the forearms stay almost parallel to the floor. In case of a too-high desk, a keyboard tray can help you position the keyboard at a friendly height.
Consider getting an ergonomic keyboard if you feel pain or tiredness in your wrist and fingers after typing for a couple of continuous hours. Such a keyboard is made to retain both hands and wrists in their natural positions while at work by tilting away and the keys inclined inwards to be with your natural wrist angle.
Is mechanical keyboard a good idea?
You can even consider getting a mechanical keyboard if you feel that your fingers are enduring the most typing pressure. The keys of several cheap keyboards have rubber domes underneath to record when any key is pressed. While this ensures quieter performance and affordable price, it results in resistance that compels one to press harder than normal. This can induce discomfort in the fingers.
Mechanical keyboards avoid this issue by using switches to record a key press instantly. Thus, you do not have to press much to type, which means putting almost no pressure on the fingers. However, these boards are costlier and louder than the standard models.
A few words about ergonomic mouse
With an ergonomic keyboard, you should consider investing in an ergonomic mouse. The design of a standard mouse is such that it fosters stress in wrists and their side-to-side bending. These postures boost pressure within the carpal tunnel. An ergonomic mouse will prevent these postures.
Choose the one that is shaped to remove the oblivious tension from the fingers, which otherwise results in nerve pain. It is also wise to choose the one with palm support to keep wrist anchoring at bay so that you can move the device using the lower arm while retaining your wrist straight.
Many computer users are choosing a vertical mouse that imitates a handshake upon holding it. Such a design is more beneficial than a horizontal one as no wrist twisting is involved.
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6. Keyboard Tray
A standard keyboard is typically positioned atop a desk due to which you turn your wrists downward to type. To avoid it and retain the wrists straight, a keyboard tray will help. It positions the keyboard underneath the desktop or at the right level for retaining a better posture.
You can control a tray under a specific angle as well as vertically. You simply need to change its position once you feel that your wrists are feeling the pressure. It is also easy to install a keyboard tray in case your chosen desk does not come with it.
7. Ergonomic Pens
Yes, you get pens with ergonomic grip. They are designed in a way to alleviate writing stress and exhaustion. After all, everything you will not be typing on a computer screen; at times, pen and paper will be your essentials.
These pens typically feature a shape of a wide barrel and a cushioned grip due to which you can hold them with little force. You can easily find them in gel, ballpoint, and rolling ball categories.
8. Computer Glasses
A pair of computer glasses is a good addition to your carpal tunnel desk setup. By decreasing eye strain, it can prevent you from leaning forward to read properly. It does so by filtering glare, blue light, and radiation. Did you know that blue light from different screen-based electronic gadgets can lead to eye weariness and macular deterioration?
In focusing on hands and posture, you should not overlook your eyes. Otherwise, it can indirectly put pressure on your back.
A perfect carpal tunnel desk setup can prevent you from the pain and other symptoms of CTS and RIS. It is truly motivating to know that you can prevent these disorders by making such simple efforts. Although there are workplace restrictions, it is possible to find affordable and easy-to-use options for not only boosting productivity but preventing major health risks. Take step one by one and you can come up with an ideal ergonomic work desk in some time.