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5 Things to Know about Ergonomics

Buying advice for computer peripherals

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Ergonomics: It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot in the world of computers, and it’s a phrase that means different things to different people. Webster says it’s a science concerned with designing and arranging things efficiently and safely. What this means for computer peripherals are building devices that reduce the risk of such things as repetitive stress injury and carpal tunnel syndrome.  Here are a few tips when selecting an ergonomic device.

1. Expect to Pay More

Ergonomic features typically add to the price tag, but reducing the risk of repetitive stress injury or carpal tunnel syndrome can make them well worth it. Be proactive about your workstation health, and your wrists and joints will thank you later on.

The Ergonomics site on About.com has a wealth of information on the subject, including these helpful articles:

2. Expect There to be a Learning Curve.

Don’t get frustrated if the peripherals you’re using suddenly feel “off” or uncomfortable. Your hands and fingers need to relearn the way to type or click, and this will take some time. Just how long will depend on how often you use the device and how much of a position change you’re forcing your body to undergo.

3. There is no “One Size Fits All”

There is no "One Size Fits All" when it comes to ergonomics, and there are no uniform standards that all companies adhere to when they slap that "ergonomic" label onto a product. Whenever possible, you should test out a product before purchasing to see if it's right for you.

Microsoft has a line of keyboards with what they term a “Wave” design. This site has reviewed a number of them:

4. Look at Your Entire Working Environment.

Take a look at everything your working with. While having ergonomic devices will help, sitting slumped over in an ill-fitting chair at an ill-fitting desk won’t. The U.S. Department of Labor has a helpful checklist to see if you're doing all you can to optimize the comfort of your workstation.

5. Think Outside the Box

Perhaps a traditional mouse isn’t the best device for your needs, even an ergonomic one. Consider using a trackball or a joystick instead. If you dislike traditional ergonomic mice -- those curved so that only the left or right hand can be used -- try switching to an ambidextrous shaped mouse and vary your mousing hand. Yes, mousing with your other hand will slow you down at first, but it will give your primary wrist a rest and over time you will strengthen the muscles in your secondary hand. 

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