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woman with wrist pain at work desk

Wrist Pain? Office Ergonomics 101

Are you experiencing aching and sore wrists? Maybe you find they flare-up more after a long day of work. Or perhaps halfway through your day, they feel stiff and painful.

It’s not uncommon to experience sore wrists - especially if you work in an office at a computer.

So what gives? Your wrist pain likely comes down to poor office ergonomics.

Okay… so what exactly are office ergonomics?

Let’s take a look.

The Ins & Outs of Office Ergonomics

Ergonomics refers to how your workstation is set-up. In an ideal work set-up, it should be suited to you and your needs. It increases efficiency, safety, and productivity, whilst decreasing pain or discomfort. In other words, you shouldn’t be experiencing wrist pain if your desk, computer, and chair are situated correctly.

While a definition is all fine and dandy… How can you set up your workspace to maximize your efficiency and decrease pain?

Let’s break it down piece by piece.

Check Your Chair

Many people have a tendency to sit on the edge of their chair. Hours later, they wonder why their back is hurting, their shoulders ache, or their wrists are feeling sore.

Here’s the thing: Chairs are designed for you to sit your bum back all the way into the chair. Most come with back supports to help support you and a correct posture.

You also want to adjust your seat height. Your feet should be able to comfortably rest on the floor. You should not be on your tippy toes. And your knees are at the same height as your hips.

The back of the chair can be adjusted to about a 100-110 degree recline. If you find your lower or upper back isn’t supported or as comfortable as it could be (trust us - you’ll start to feel it in a few hours), add cushion supports or a slip-on backrest. You can often get these devices at your pharmacy or local Walmart.

Alright. Moving on to the armrests, the last aspect of your chair you want to be made aware of. Your armrests shouldn’t add discomfort or force your wrists to sit in an awkward position. Ideally, they should be positioned so they also support you, but in a way that keeps your shoulders relaxed. And if you absolutely can’t stand them, move them out of the way!

The Keyboard Position

The main thing here is to ensure that your keyboard is close to you. You shouldn’t be stretching toward it. This could potentially lead to wrist pain and other muscular or soft tissue strains. Here are a few tips for your keyboard positioning:

  • Make sure it is right in front of you. If you use one part of the keyboard more (such as the number pad) adjust it so it’s easy to use and reach.
  • Check the height of your keyboard. Are your shoulders relaxed? Can your wrists and hands sit straight? You may need to either adjust your keyboard height or the height of your desk.
  • Don’t use wrist rests that are higher than your keyboard. This creates a bend in your wrist, causing eventual discomfort and pain.
  • If you do use a wrist rest, it should rest on your palms or the bottom of your hands (not your wrists). It should also keep your wrists in a straight line. If there’s a bend, adjust your workstation to make it work or forego the wrist rest. Note: Using a wrist rest is a personal preference. Everyone is different.

Adjusting Your Computer Screen

Adjusting your computer screen is relatively simple. Like the keyboard, your screen should be right in front of you. You shouldn’t have to strain your neck to look at it.

Position your screen about an inch above eye level and an arm’s length away from you. This will keep your neck from getting sore and make it easy for you to see the screen.

Further, if you are near a window, make sure the sun’s glare isn’t going to impact whether you can see your screen or not. If it is, it may be a good idea to move your desk and computer in a way where this isn’t an issue. Or you can simply close the blinds. Problem solved.

So, What Else Should You Be Aware Of?

You might have adjusted your office space. It’s perfect. But how you sit and use it matters as well. Here are a few tips and reminders to prevent aches and pains:

  • Take breaks. Stand up every hour or two. Stretch it out or walk for a few minutes. Your body isn’t made to sit for long durations. It’s made to move.
  • Ensure your arms are supported. If they aren’t, you may risk injuries and pain to the shoulders or neck.
  • Do not crane your neck forward. This is a huge issue today. Many individuals experience forward head posture. It’s an incorrect postural alignment where the head is craned forward past the spine. For every inch the head is forward, it puts an additional 10 pounds of stress on the neck. This creates pain, degenerative issues, and more.
  • Pull your chair up close to your workstation. Don’t hunch or slouch forward.
  • Don’t talk on the phone with it jammed between your head and shoulder. Hold it with your hand or better yet, use headphones.
  • Give your eyes a break. Look away from the screen every now and again to prevent eye strain.

My Wrists Hurt & I Don’t Know What to do About Them!

If your wrist pain is persistent, book an appointment with your doctor or physical therapist. Get it checked out. And the sooner, the better.

If they are just generally sore, try the following stretches:

The Wrist Flexor Stretch

  1. Extend your arm straight in front of you.
  2. Face your palm so it faces up.
  3. Use your other hand to pull your hand down and toward you. Your palm should end up facing away from you. And you should feel a gentle stretch alongside the inside of the wrist and forearm.
  4. Hold here for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times and do each side.

The Wrist Extensor Stretch

  1. Extend your arm straight in front of you.
  2. Face your palm down.
  3. Use your other hand to gently pull your hand toward you. Your palm should face you. You should feel a gentle stretch through the top of the wrist and forearm.
  4. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times per side.

Set Yourself Up For Success!

As mentioned above, proper ergonomics means increased efficiency and productivity. No more distractions from painful wrists, shoulders, or backs. It means you can focus more on your work and less on any discomforts. Set your workspace up properly. It’s worth it!

Related Article: Why Employee Appreciation Needs to Happen Year-Round

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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