Risk Factor: Contact Stress – 09/12/07

Contact stress occurs when a part of your body rests against something, resulting in discomfort and/or pain.  For example, when typing, if your wrist rests against the desk, this is considered to be contact stress.  Many tendons, nerves, and blood vessels run through the wrist and when you compress these tissues against a surface, it results in less blood supply, possible impairment to nerve conduction, and potential harm to tendons.  Another example would be a telephone headset that fits too tightly resulting in contact stress to the head.  This may trigger a headache from reduced blood supply and tissue compression.

Do a self body scan when you are working.  Are there any areas of your body that frequently rest again a hard surface?  If so, make changes to eliminate the contact stress.  If you can’t eliminate it, try to make it less.  For example, resting your wrist against the top edge of the desk is worse than resting it directly on the desk.  The edge of the desk is sharp and provides greater contact stress.  The best solution is to lower the desk or use a keyboard and mouse tray so you don’t have to rest your wrists, but in a pinch, you could pad the desk edge or move your keyboard to the edge of the desk so there is nowhere for the wrist to rest.  People who use tools with sharp edges on the handles could also pad their handles, as long as the grip diameter doesn’t increase too much.

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