Workplace ergonomics become tricky while working from home, but simple changes can make a difference. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Workplace ergonomics become tricky while working from home, but simple changes can make a difference. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Work-at-home ergonomics might ‘B’ a problem for you, too

She ordered a laptop riser and an ergonomic keyboard to help ease constant pain from tennis elbow.

Speed typing is my superpower. I can type 80.4 words a minute, almost as fast as people talk. The problem is, my superpower comes with an evil sidekick: tendinitis.

I’ve struggled with tendinitis since high school, when I gave myself flash-card wrist while studying for the SAT exam. In my 20s, I became a knitter until the pain became so bad that I had to stop. In my 30s, I broke my wrist ice-skating, underwent surgery and was diagnosed with a nerve disorder called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Basically, my arms are really screwed up.

If you think about pain on a scale from 1 to 10, level 3 pain doesn’t seem so bad — unless it never goes away. Level 3 pain can wake you up in the middle of the night. It can stop you from doing things you love like planting tulip bulbs in your front yard. Level 3 pain can also morph into level 6 pain pretty fast, especially if you aren’t careful.

My tendinitis has grown worse during the pandemic because my work space has changed. To find peace and quiet, I have taken my laptop to odd places, like the couch, back yard, or even our tent trailer popped up in the driveway.

Laptop computers are tricky because they make you crane your neck down to see the screen, and contort your arms at odd angles to type, depending on how you’re sitting.

Finally my tendinitis became so bad that I went to the doctor and followed her six-week plan for ending tennis elbow. I took high doses of ibuprofen and did strength training and stretching exercises that were supposed to help. Unfortunately, they didn’t.

That’s when I gave my husband’s suggestions a try. I ordered a laptop riser and an ergonomic keyboard, and created a permanent workstation for myself on a card table.

The laptop riser isn’t so bad. It raises the screen to eye level so I don’t hunch over. But the ergonomic keyboard? I’ve found my kryptonite! It splits the keyboard into two areas, and unfortunately for me, puts the letter B on the left side.

It turns out, I’ve been typing the letter B with my right hand — the wrong hand — my whole life, and that might be part of my problem.

My first few days with the ergonomic keyboard were horrible. I kept looking at my hands like I was 10 years old and practicing with Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. But I’m slowly improving, both in skill and pain level.

As 2020 drags along, many of us are spending huge amounts of time on laptop computers, and that includes children logging on to virtual school. I know from personal experience that lifelong problems with chronic pain can begin early. Be careful with flashcards, laptop computers and the propensity to sit in one place for too long.

Take a look the next time you type. Which hand do you use to hit the letter B?

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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