Helpful Hints for Computer Users-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Helpful Hints for Computer Users

•    Computer users should work no longer than one hour at a time before taking a short (5 – 10 minutes) break.  Break reminder software can be used if you have difficulty remembering when to interrupt your work routine.  A free program can be downloaded from

•    If you will be working on a laptop for an extended period of time, elevate the laptop so your line of vision strikes at the top of the monitor when looking directly forward.  This will reduce stresses in the neck.  You will then need to use an external keyboard to maintain proper hand and arm position.

•    Generally, keyboards should not be placed directly onto the desk because it will force the arms and shoulders into a stressful position.  Instead, place the keyboard on a keyboard tray.  Once the keyboard tray is installed, sit with the elbows comfortably relaxed and resting at your sides.  Then position the tray so the wrists are slightly below the elbows.  The hands should line up with the wrists and forearms, with the knuckles slightly lower than the wrists.  This will place your hands and elbows in the proper position.  The trackball or mouse should then be placed immediately beside the keyboard, to reduce the potential for elbow pain associated with excessive movement.

•    The legs at the back of the keyboard should be kept retracted, to avoid excessive bending at the wrist.

•    The mouse should be moved from one side to the other on a weekly basis, to maximize recovery times.  This allows a period of rest for the wrist and arm that is not being used and serves as an excellent injury prevention technique.  

•    If soreness develops in your hands or forearms, sometimes reducing your typing speed temporarily will provide relief.  If there is no improvement within a few days, get an evaluation to determine if other factors are involved.

•    Wrists must be kept straight in both the horizontal direction and the vertical. It may be necessary to use a wrist rest to prevent the wrist from dropping below the neutral plane. However, do not rest your wrists on the rest continually.

•    Symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders and other ergonomic injuries may be subtle at first, leading the individual to ignore them.  These symptoms may be alerting you to any of several types of ergonomic injuries.  NEVER ignore these symptoms.  Call EH&S (8-8182) for an evaluation and seek medical intervention.