Injuries from repetitive stress can be serious. Typing and using your mouse are common causes of these injuries. An ergonomically correct workstation with proper positioning of your body, keyboard, mouse, chair, and monitor can greatly reduce the stress put on your body by using your computer.
You probably know someone who has had Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, and while the Mayo Clinic says that "there has not been enough quality and consistent evidence to support extensive computer use as a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome," there are also other injuries such as tennis elbow and tendonitis that you should try to avoid. Also, many doctors say that they are concerned with the way people use the mouse.
Your chair is probably the the most important factor in reducing the chance of repetitive stress injuries. Sit as far back in your chair as possible, and keep your back straight. If you can afford it, buy a computer chair with adjustable armrests. This will help keep stress off of your shoulders and also help your elbows stay in the correct position. Avoid reclining your chair for long periods of time. This will also reduce the stress on your neck and shoulders. Put your feet flat on the floor, use a phone book or a step stool if needed. Keep your elbows close to your sides, and position your chair and your keyboard so that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees.
With your fingers on the home row keys, your wrists should be in a neutral position, meaning that your thumbs are in-line with your forearms. (Wrists are straight.) Most desktop keyboards have stands to tilt the keyboard towards you, but this may not be correct. You may need to tilt the keyboard away from you to have your wrists in the neutral position. While positioning your keyboard, make sure you are paying attention to your elbows as well.
Place your keyboard directly in front of you. To get the proper distance, spread your fingers, put your thumb on your stomach, and touch the keyboard with your little finger. If this is not comfortable, adjust accordingly. Keyboard wrist pads are not to be used while typing as they will most likely cause you to bend your wrists. These pads are for resting, not typing.
Place your mouse where it is easily within your reach, without having to move your elbow away from your side. While using the mouse, you may need to raise your wrist to keep your thumb in line with your forearm. Try to move your entire arm when necessary, not just your wrist.
Place your monitor 15 to 24 inches away from you, with the top of the monitor at eye level. If you are using a laptop, put the keyboard as far away as possible while maintaining your elbow and wrist posture and comfort. Tilt the screen as necessary.
Listen to Your Body
Give yourself time to adjust to these changes. It may feel different at first. But, if after following all of these steps for a day or two you don't feel comfortable at your computer, you should make yourself comfortable. Having your wrists and elbows in proper position is very important, but you know your body better than anyone, and if something doesn't feel right than it probably isn't.
Signs of Injury
If you feel tingling, numbness, pain, or a limited range of motion, you need to take some time off. Most of the time, a few days rest should take care of your problem, but if you have the same symptoms when you return to typing then you will need to see a doctor. For people who have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, surgery is required, but most return to work the next day.