Healthy Computing: Armrests

Is your chair like an airplane seat, ergonomically designed for most
bodies yet uncomfortable for each individual? Although many office chairs
have adjustable features, armrests often are too high, too hard or
impede movement. If so, they can cause us to raise our shoulders or brace
our arms, or tighten up when mousing. Relax your shoulders and arms by
checking your ARMRESTS.

How to Check Your Armrests:

Sit comfortably in your chair with your hands on your lap, your shoulders
relaxed and your elbows against your trunk. Check your elbow height in
relation to the arm rests. If your elbows are lower, you are forced to
raise your shoulders when using the armrests. When sitting in this
position, you can develop chronic shoulder tension.

Sit with your arms relaxing on the rests. Are they soft and comfortable?
Or are they firm and rigid? If not comfortable, you may brace your arms
to protect yourself from the discomfort of hard rests.

Pull fully up to your keyboard and mouse and begin working. Do the
armrests bump against the keyboard tray? Do you have to twist your wrist
or hand to get around the armrest in order to mouse?

If the rests are too high, lower the armrests so that you do not have to
raise your shoulders when resting. If too hard, wrap a soft cloth or
padding around the armrests. If they constrict movement, check to see if
the rests can wing out (banana wing rests).

If you cannot adjust the armrests to suit your body, the best option is to
remove them completely (most can be unbolted from the bottom of the chair)
and allow your arms to rest on your lap during micro-breaks.

Eliminating the armrests also offers more freedom for “flow typing” where
your arms, shoulders and trunk can move instead of being rigid and

Copyright 2002 Erik Peper, Ph.D. and Katherine Hughes Gibney

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Written by Erik Peper PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021