A plea for help with ergonomics

Posted by Elf Sternberg as Uncategorized

I am a gorilla.

That’s what my dry cleaner (who also does my alterations) tells me.  I have very long arms, “gorilla arms,” she calls them, and that means that every “off-the-rack” sport coat I buy is two sizes too big.  That’s the first size where the arms are long enough to look right.  I have to bring them to her to have them brought in at the waist, otherwise I end up looking ridiculous.

What this means for ergonomics is that, for me to be comfortable at my desk, my keyboard has to be almost in my lap, perhaps even lower.   Anything higher and my shoulders ache at the end of the day lifting my arms up high enough to keep my wrists straight.  Is there anything that can help with this?  Anyone got any suggestions?

3 Responses to A plea for help with ergonomics


August 16th, 2012 at 9:56 am

Chair with arms and keyboard on keyboard tray. Keyboard tray will hover just above your lap – you’ll probably even feel it touching your legs. This is so normal for me I don’t even notice it any more unless asked. I put the arms of the chair up high enough so that my arms, when layed atop them, are held at the proper position above the keyboard. This reduces fatigue tremendously – I effectively am able to relax and type without particular tension. You might also try a deeper arm/chairback relationship. This lets you sit a bit further back, with your arms angled out in front of you. Because they’re sitting on the arms, you’re not tense and stressed, and because they’re angled out, you have room to keyboard in the proper position.

You’ll probably also want to go with a keyboard with significant separation between right and left, like the Kinesis Advantage or Freestyle (if you can’t deal with the awesomeness of Advantage) which will reduce the amount of reaching-to-the-center you’ll need to do, which actually is a fairly big ergonomic problem if you type alot.

The Ergo-Dog,


Anthony Francis

August 16th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I second Skylos’ comment. I’ve been measured by an ergonomist who says I have a long elbow-to-waist ratio (similar to your problem). I once had a serious problem with RSI and now almost completely control it with:

– left handed vertical mouse (my personal problem with my right hand)
– Microsoft Natural or equivalent angled-out / split keyboard (find what works for you; each person has their own best setup)
– keyboard tray beneath a high desk (so there’s clearance)

Sitting up straight, my keyboard is almost in my lap. Often I lean back comfortably and kick my feet forward, so my keyboard is effectively below my lap. I often adopt the same posture when writing on my laptop.

Everyone’s body is different, so find what works for you.

Oh, and ibuprofen. It’s not just for pain management. It’s a prophylactic. Once you’ve got inflamed tissues, abusing them inflames them more. Anti-inflammatory agents can prevent this cycle from getting started. If you feel pain, stop, take some ibuprofen or equivalent, and go take a break.

Jeff Youngstrom

August 16th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I didn’t want to try every keyboard holder under the sun trying to find one that would work for me so I slapped one together out of cheap lumber.


The part that supports the keyboard is just 1/4-inch plywood to minimize the unavoidable rise. I like to have my keyboard sloping down away from me to avoid dorsiflexion which is the opposite of the default configuration of my Kinesis Advantage (*high-fives Skylos*) so I added a riser at the back of the keyboard deck that the back feet of the Kinesis rest on.

I *hate* office chairs with arms. I have no discipline and end up resting one elbow on one and slouching towards it screwing up my back in short order.

This setup gives me two comfortable and fairly ergonomic configurations:

Sitting up straight:

Slouching so that my back is straight but reclined:

In both positions, the far side of the keyboard shelf touches my legs.

The Kinesis Advantage is soooo worth the hefty (for a keyboard) pricetag and minor learning curve. This is my second one after the first one finally gave up after 16 years of full-time use. I was surprised how easy it is to switch back and forth to standard keyboards on laptops and my wife’s machine at home. I hardly ever reach for the wrong key in the wrong context despite enter, backspace, delete, ctrl, alt, arrows, +, \, ~ all being in radically different locations.

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