Digital scrapbooking has so many perks and advantages to enjoy, especially in the areas of space-saving benefits and great portability. The extended use of a computer can cause some ergonomic issues however; specifically stresses and strains on the back, the neck area, arms, and wrists. Even legs and feet can suffer if you sit for too long. Anyone who uses a computer will benefit from following a few tips to stay healthy, and digital scrapbookers will find their creating time to be much more productive and enjoyable if they are careful to work in an ergonomic environment.
What is the right way to work at a computer? This is not an easy question to answer as it may be different for everyone. I (Katie) have learned through a lot of trial and error that certain chairs, tables, and sitting positions can easily wreak havoc on my body and end up causing me a great deal of pain. I have a few tricks that I have learned as well as some great links to share with you to help you feel healthier and happier while you are working on your computer:
- Screen level – Pay attention to your posture. If you are slumped over, or straining in any way, your body will pay the price for it. I was so excited to get a laptop computer, but I soon found that I was hunching over to see the screen. One of the big advantages of a desktop monitor is that you can adjust the screen height to be closer to level with your eyes. I found that using a laptop stand for a good portion of my computer time has helped ease my neck strain. The laptop stand is something I picked up at Costco, but I know you can find them at just about any office store. This does cut down on my portability, but I can also lift my laptop out at any time and move to another location.The ideal setting for a screen is within your line of vision (and slightly tipped back is even better). See this link at office-ergo.com for a full range of tips like this one.
- Mouse & Keyboard – My laptop stand also came with an extra wireless keyboard. With as much typing as I do, this comes in very handy for me. I wouldn’t be able to type on the laptop while it was on the stand. Our family desktop computer has a cushioned and curved keyboard which is even more comfortable for lengthy typing sessions (once you get used to it). The biggest key to comfort when using a mouse or a keyboard is having adequate wrist support. Your wrist should be straight and not feel strain when you are working. Some people find that a wrist rest cushion really helps. I actually have to wear a brace to keep my wrist from hurting. I injured my wrist by tearing about 400 fabric strips for a church project and it has never been the same since. If I wear my brace though, I don’t have any problems.
One of the most frequent complaints from digital scrapbookers is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This can get very serious and require an extended break from the computer (gasp!) and even surgery (double gasp!) so this is something to take seriously. Women are much more likely to suffer from Carpal Tunnel. After browsing through some online forums, I found some innovative computer mouse designs meant to help with Carpal Tunnel symptoms. Logitech has a Track-Man wheel mouse and Evoluent specializes in ergonomic equipment. Many digital scrapbookers swear by the pen and tablet system over using a mouse so that might be a good option to explore as well.
- The right chair – I have tried several different chairs over the years and I found one at Office Max a few years ago on clearance that seems to give me the right amount of cushioning and back support. It is not an expensive chair, but it works for me. I can’t work sitting at our dining room table because the chairs don’t have arms and the table height is uncomfortable. The very worst position for me is sitting at a high counter or bar. When my legs are not resting on the ground, I end up with a lot of knee pain. My back also suffers in high chairs. I need to have back support so a stool would not work for me. I would encourage you to pay attention to your own body’s signals when determining what chair and table combination works for you. The chair doesn’t have to cost a lot, but you usually will do better if you invest in a nicer chair instead of using a folding chair. If money is not an object, you might want to check out Herman Miller. They are supposed to be the most amazingly comfortable work chairs!
- What about the couch? If you are like me, you want to move around a bit. One of the best things about having a laptop is that I can sit and watch tv with my kids or hubby and edit photos. The best thing to pay attention to is making sure your back and arms are supported. Prop up a few pillows on each side of yourself to create some arm rests. Make sure your back feels comfortable and supported. You might want to consider using a portable lap table to keep the heat from the laptop away from your legs. I still use a cordless mouse wherever I sit because the touchpad causes me wrist and finger pain.
- Take breaks – Medical experts agree that the best thing you can do to avoid repetitive stress injuries is to be cautious about not overdoing it. Our bodies are not built to do only a few movements over and over. Variety in movement, and taking regular breaks will extend the life of your muscles and joints.
Each person will find that they have different needs so be sure to pay attention to what works for you. I also asked some of our team members if they had any advice on this topic and here is what they said:
Jacki –Oh, dear, I need to do better at this. I do have a really good office chair that swivels so I can lean forward and backward as needed and my screen is big so I don’t have to be quite so close to the computer. I rest my feet on a box so they don’t swell up (I don’t have air conditioning and it gets really hot!). I also use a cordless mouse so I can move it around as I sit in different positions.
Steph – I have a bad back and my husband was convinced it was caused by me sitting on my couch (I sit in the recliner part, with my feet up…lol). The Physical Therapist said that sitting in the recliner would actually be better for my back than sitting hunched over at a table or desk. I have since found this to be true, sitting with my feet up relieves a lot of the pressure on my back.
Janet – I found that changing the height of my chair made a huge difference. My mouse arm was getting really sore and once I raised my chair so that my arm goes with gravity — so that it is above the desk rather than at the same height, I feel much better.
I know a lot of people choose to use a tablet…I could never really get into them. I should though…maybe I wouldn’t have a callous on my hand where my hand hits my desk
For some wonderful resources on how to create an ergonomic work space, be sure to check out the following links:
P.S. Kelly is our winner in today’s GIFTaway. She was randomly chosen from the comments left in yesterday’s post about Michelle’s products, here’s what she said: “I’m a long time Michelle fan too! I have to agree with everyone that the Vintage Holiday Memories kit would be my first choice but right behind that would be the Trendy kit. I really enjoyed the sample layouts using Michelle’s kit too! Thanks again you guys!”
Thanks Kelly and thanks to everyone who is taking time to submit comments, we read them all and truly appreciate it!! 🙂