Trouble-Shooting Guide for Discomfort in Wrist / Hand / Forearm / Elbow

The following lists some possible causes of wrist/hand/forearm/elbow discomfort among computer users.  Potential corrective action to consider is also listed.

  • Elbow or forearm resting for long periods of time on hard or sharp edges of work station or on armrest of chair
    • pad or round surfaces, corners, armrests
  • Prolonged keying or mousing with wrists extended or flexed
    • the keyboard height may be too low or too high; ensure there is some space (2-3″) or a wrist rest to help keep wrists straight when not actively keying or mousing; avoid resting the wrists on these surfaces while actually keying/mousing; alter slope of keyboard — flat or tilted slightly away from user is best (avoid tilt toward user as this extends wrists)
  • Wrists or palms resting on hard or sharp keyboard or work surfaces
    • pad or round surfaces, edges, corners, etc.; try a wrist rest
  • Rapid, sustained or prolonged periods of keying or mousing
    • schedule regular breaks to shake and stretch out hands, arms, shoulders; incorporate other tasks into the workday
  • Forceful keying
    • habit training – use a light touch
  • Gripping mouse or pointing device too tightly
    • habit training – grip lightly; also try to adjust mouse sensitivity, mouse buttons should click easily with little pressure required
  • Hands held over keyboard even when not actively keyboarding
    • wrist rest or space on work surface to rest wrists and keep them straight
  • Significant amounts of stapling, paper punching, lifting or other forceful exertions, especially combined with awkward postures
    • use mechanical aids such as lifting devices, electric stapler or punch; decrease size of loads; keep load close to body at about waist or hip height
  • Prolonged mouse use
    • alternate hands (careful! – if the root of the problem is not solved, the user may end up with both hands affected); alternate pointing devices; provide arm support; locate device close to body; task variety