Help!…My Computer is Killing Me!

Brian Trabulsi, MPT, ATC is a physical therapist at Rex Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation in Raleigh.

We all know that computers make our lives easier. Unfortunately, spending several hours a day looking at one can be more harmful then helpful. Computer oriented jobs can place workers at risk of developing Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD) if their workplace/computer is set up incorrectly. This can lead to excessive strain and fatigue possibly leading to injury over time. CTDs can manifest themselves into carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or chronic neck/back pain. A quick check of your workstation and some minor modifications can make a world of difference to relieve pain or prevent future injury.

  1. Head, neck, and trunk should face the computer. No twisting.
  2. Sit with good upright posture and have 90 degrees angles at your hips, knees and ankles.
  3. Feet should be firmly planted flat on the floor. A footrest may be needed for shorter people or higher workstations.
  4. Keyboard should be flat and close to elbow level.
  5. Top of the computer screen should be at eye level and the monitor should be at arm’s length.
left picture shows worker slumping at computer: right image shows sitting upright
How to sit properly at a computer

These are a couple of simple adjustments you can make to decrease strain and improve comfort at your computer. For a more detailed workplace checklist view the full OSHA Video Display Terminal (VDT) Checklist.