Arm Pads Give Relief to Computer Pain
Study Shows Forearm Support Can Ease Pain From Working at a Computer
WebMD News Archive
April 21, 2006 -- Resting your forearms on supportive arm boards or pads may
take some of the aches and pains out of working at a computer every day.
A new study suggests that providing forearm support can significantly reduce
neck and shoulder pain as well as hand, wrist, and forearm pain associated with
"Based on these outcomes, employers should consider providing employees
who use computers with appropriate forearm support," says researcher David
Rempel, MD, MPH, director of the ergonomics program at San Francisco General
Hospital, in a news release.
Arm Boards and Ergonomics Training
In the study, researchers looked at the effects of providing forearm support
(in the form of a padded device known as an arm board that attaches to the
front of the work surface) and ergonomics training on upper body pain. The
participants in the study were 182 operators at a call center who worked at
computers most of the day.
The operators were randomly divided into groups that received ergonomics
training only, ergonomics training plus an arm board, ergonomics training and
use of a trackball (instead of computer mouse), or ergonomics training with
forearm support and a trackball. A trackball is a device that uses a rotating
ball to position a cursor on a computer screen.
The participants provided weekly pain scores. Researchers monitored them for
any medical problems that developed in the upper extremities (hand, wrist,
arm), neck, or shoulder areas. Most of the participants used the mouse or
trackball with their right hand (98%).
One year later, the results showed that operators who used the arm board had
a 50% lower rate of neck and shoulder disorders than those in the control
group. Use of the arm board was also associated with less pain in that area and
the right upper extremity. Interestingly, the use of a trackball reduced pain
and problems in only the left upper extremity.
Pain Relief Tips
The results, which appear in the British Journal of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine, showed that providing forearm support along with
ergonomics training had the greatest effect in protecting against
computer-related muscle pain.
Researchers estimate that the cost of providing arm boards to employees
would be returned to employers in the form of increased productivity within
about 11 months of purchase.
"Based on this study, it is in the best interest of the company and the
employees to provide forearm supports and training," says Rempel.
Researchers say other tips to reduce the risk of computer-related pain
- Taking scheduled breaks
- Maintaining an erect posture
- Adjusting chair height so thighs are parallel to the floor
- Adjusting arm support and work surface height so the forearms are parallel
to the floor
- Adjusting the mouse and keyboard location to minimize reaching
- Adjusting monitor height so that the center of the monitor is about 15
degrees below the visual horizon