Neck and shoulder pain is one of the most prevalent complaints in the office work environment. Neck and shoulder pain can be caused by a number of factors: illness, injury, stress, or the way you slept. Commonly though, neck and shoulder pain is caused by working at the computer. A tell-tale sign for me that computer work may be the culprit is when people place their hands on the area where the neck meets the top of the shoulder and say “it hurts here”.
Luckily this is usually a very easy fix. Most people use their keyboards on the desk surface. This requires them to lift up both arms at the shoulder when typing, also known as “hunching”. Some people hunch a lot and other people only hunch their shoulders up a tiny bit. But any movement up, no matter how small, will activate the trapezius muscle. And prolonged use of this muscle will provoke that tell-tale pain. To deactivate the trapezius muscle completely, the upper arms must hang loosely from the shoulder joint with no movement. Elbows are then bent at 90 degrees for optimal keyboard and mouse height. So unless you have an adjustable desk that will bring your keyboard and mouse to this ideal height, you will require a keyboard and mouse tray. Keyboard and mouse trays are much better designed nowadays and are very comfortable to use. Here are some features to look for:
- Complete height adjustability so you can achieve that exact height;
- Negative tilt adjustability so that you can keep your wrists straight;
- Slim in height so the keyboard tray clears your legs easily;
- Keyboard and mouse all on one tray (extra mouse trays off the side tend to have rigid edges and are often higher in height);
- No knobs underneath the tray that will knock your knees.
Don’t forget your posture too – your shoulders need to be relaxed. To make sure that they are, try this exercise: hunch up your shoulders to your ears and then relax them completely while breathing out. You will be able tell whether you have been unconsciously hunching. Many people do this when they are stressed or on a deadline – it’s a “fight or flight” reaction. But to rid yourself of pain, shoulders need to be loose and unrestricted. Feeling good and pain-free is always the best way to meet that deadline.