Image: Ergonomic Safety Program Logo


Is your chair like an airplane seat, ergonomically designed for most bodies yet uncomfortable for you? 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 tighten our arms when typing and mousing. Let yourself work freely when you adjust your armrests.

How to Adjust Your Armrests :

Feel and observe the 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. Sitting in this position can result in 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 tens your arms to protect yourself from the discomfort of the hard surface.

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?

Make adjustments: 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 constricted.


The Institute for Holistic Healing Studies and Human Resources sponsor the distribution of Healthy Computing Email Tips. Copyright 2009 Erik Peper, Ph.D. and Katherine Hughes Gibney. Permission to copy and distribute Healthy Computing Email Tips for personal use is granted. Distribution or copying of Healthy Computing Email Tips for commercial purposes is prohibited without prior written consent of the copyright holders.
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