Friday Feast #19: Computer Use, Musicians, and Injuries

When is the last time you warmed up or did stretching exercises before starting to work at your computer? I’m no mind reader, but I suspect most haven’t even thought about it, at least not until you have so much pain in your neck, wrist, or hands that you can’t type and end up at the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of Repetitive Strain Injury, (RSI) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), pinched nerves, or more. See TIFAQ’s Glossary for a long list of daunting possibilities that can and do occur every single day.

In my other life as a professional musician, I was taught early on to be keenly aware of how to optimally use my body to practice and perform without injury, an approach and technique that I’ve also passed on to my students. That awareness includes being mindful of muscle tension and learning to play without creating those knots in your shoulders and neck and without straining muscles or causing injuries. * That carries over into how I type at my computer keyboard, too.

I see greater potential for injuries with computer use than with musical instruments largely because of the lack of training about how to use the body when typing. When is the last time you heard a typing teacher talk about body awareness, muscle use, taking frequent breaks, or exercises to prevent injuries? Not often enough. How many people learn to type at a computer without even taking a typing class? Plenty.

Preventive Measures at Your Desk

So, before you end up in the doctor’s office or even needing surgery for CTS or RSI and potentially ending up on disability, consider reviewing your own office ergonomics to either set up or improve your workspace for better comfort and to help prevent injuries. Below is some information to help.

Set Up or Improve Your Workspace

IBM’s Healthy Computing website area utilizes helpful 3D imagery and guidance to visually see their explanations about how your workspace needs to be set up ergonomically. There are plenty of good tips here, whether new to ergonomics or not. They cover the entire workspace from top to bottom, including your chair, monitor, keyboard, desk, the floor, angles and measurements and relationships, how you should be comfortably positioned, and lots more. They also have sections on accessories, setting up your workspace, display and other vision considerations, excellent discussions about comfort and ergonomics, exercising, your work environment, and more.

In addition to IBM’s site noted above, Healthy Computing has a very helpful section on office ergonomic setup tips, including how to set up your keyboard, monitor, mouse, chair, documents, phone, lighting, and desk.

Helpful Products and Accessories

Part of an ergonomically designed office includes a well-designed adjustable ergonomic desk chair, proper lighting, and a monitor set up to avoid glare. Logitech Cordless Freedom Pro at An ergonomically designed keyboard and mouse can also make a big difference in comfort and may help reduce or prevent injuries.

anti-glare filter via amazon.comEverything you need at your desk needs to be easy to reach and use, whether pen and paper, Rolodex, HTML and color charts, documents, or paper clips. Document holders can be set up to prevent neck and eye strain, too. Other accessories are also available, such as wrist pads, OTT-Lite VisionSaver desk lampanti-glare monitor filters, telephone headsets, foot rests, seating and back supports and cushions, and more.

Where do you begin, and how do you know what products and accessories are truly worthwhile and what are scams? Healthy Computing’s Buyer’s Guide can help you learn about important features to look for, what’s helpful, and what’s a scam. TIFAQ also provides helpful information and links to the pros and cons of various products and accessories.

Mobile Office Ergonomics

Mobile computing has many distinct advantages with convenience and portability. There are things to watch out for, too, and Healthy Computing has written articles to help you avoid or remove common pitfalls for good laptop ergonomics, phone ergonomics, and even PDA ergonomics.


Do stretches and exercises, take frequent and regular breaks, and become aware of any muscle tension building so you can quickly diffuse it. Listen to music that helps you relax and soothes those muscles.


Below are more links to specific articles, tips, and entire websites devoted to ergonomic workspaces and injury prevention. I’ve also collected all the links above and placed them here.

Websites, Sections Devoted to Ergonomic Workspaces, Computer Injuries and Prevention

    A site with information, articles, and links to resources about ergonomics, the Alexander Technique, and related.
  • Healthy Computing Resource Library
    Tips for preventing computer injuries, information about computer-related injuries, links to more information. By WorkPace.
  • Healthy Computing (IBM)
    IBM’s helpful and thorough section on ergonomic office space utilizes 3D imagery, illustration, and guidance, covering the entire workspace from top to bottom.
  • MIT’s RSI Information Page
    Helpful information, tutorials, software, more. By MIT.
  • The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique
    An entire site devoted to information and links about removing muscle tension via the Alexander Technique, whether from computer use, playing an instrument, or daily life.
  • Typing Injury FAQ
    An excellent educational resource about repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and prevention, resources for information, assistive products to reduce or prevent injuries, and much more. Provided by the CTD Resource Network, Inc.
  • UCLA Ergonomics: Quick ErgoInfo
    UCLA has provided a very helpful section on office ergonomics and injuries (eyes, neck, back, arms and wrist), and how to set up your office (back rest, chair, foot rest, input device, keyboard tray, monitor, table, wrist rest).
  • Your Office’s Business section on ergonomic office space, setting up your office, products, and more.

Articles, Tutorials

Products, Accessories


Friday Feast Archives

* Many professional pianists are already familiar with the philosophies and approaches of the Dorothy Taubman Institute and the Alexander Technique.

11:12 am, pdt16 August, 2002 Comments, Trackbacks (2) ·';}?>

Categories: Accessibility, Friday Feast, Technology, Usability, Wireless


Comments, Trackbacks: 2 so far. Add yours!

  1. Hi - I’m writing to suggest a link - this site will link back to you in return if you decide to link.

    Title: Pedro de Alcantara
    Description: The Alexander Technique: coordination and well-being. Books, articles, and seminars.

    12:58 pm, pst23 March, 2004Comment by Lindsay Newitter

    comment #1 permalink ·'; else echo '·'; ?>

  2. Schools don’t have ergonomicaly frienly computer rooms. The chairs are uncomfortable, nothing can be adjusted, and they don’t even have mouspads. PLEASE HELP!

    11:06 am, pdt 7 April, 2005Comment by Jesse Sanders

    comment #2 permalink ·'; else echo '·'; ?>

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