Trouble-Shooting Guide for Shoulder / Upper Arm Discomfort

The following lists some possible causes of shoulder and upper arm discomfort among computer users.  Potential corrective action to consider is also listed.

  • Static posture and stress

    • for every hour of intensive computer work, take a 5 minute break to stretch, move around and/or perform other job tasks
  • Prolonged hunched or elevated shoulder posture while holding the telephone
    • use a telephone headset or handset attachment
  • Frequent use of a mouse or other pointing device, especially if an extensive reach to the side or front of the body is required
    • move mouse device close to the body, at about the same height as the keyboard
  • Shoulders raised because keyboard too high
    • lower keyboard height (perhaps install an underdesk keyboard/mouse unit) or raise the height of the chair ( a footrest may be needed); lower armrests on the chair
  • Shoulders slumped because keyboard too low
    • raise the keyboard height or perhaps lower the chair height (within reason)
  • Frequent overhead reaches, extended reaches or leaning to side
    • place frequently used items within easy reach, close to the body; avoid frequent overhead reaches or reaches requiring twisting of spine
  • Hands held actively over the keyboard even during keying breaks – no rest
    • ensure there is space on the surface (2-3″) or use a wrist rest to keep wrists straight when not actively keyboarding
  • Elbow and upper arms held away from the body
    • bring chair armrests in closer to the body or do not use them; move the mouse device closer to the body; lower height of keyboard; lower armrests
  • Prolonged mouse usage
    • alternate hands (careful! – without addressing the root of the problem, the user may end up with both sides affected); alternate pointing devices; provide arm support; locate device close to body; task variety
    • keyboard shortcuts
    • mousetool to minimize finger usage
    • forearm supports