Whether you’re someone who enjoys gaming or a professional gamer, chances are you know a lot of things about the gaming world – the basic necessities or the tricks and trades into becoming a successful gamer. Whether your purpose is to have a career or simply for entertainment, it helps to know that there are ways to make your gaming sessions as comfortable and exciting as possible.
To become a gamer, you must be ready to invest and buy the latest hardware including the best peripherals the market has to offer. And your mouse and keyboard are essential whether using them for work or gaming.
Ergonomics in PC usage
If you are a gamer or someone who frequently uses your computer, then you should know the basics of ergonomics and why it is important. You should know that good mouse and keyboard ergonomics will make your computer experience pain-free and productive.
Over the years, personal computers have become a very important part of everyone’s life. They have become a “need” instead of a “want” as more and more people used them for various purposes. Hence proper keyboard and mouse ergonomics should be followed at all times.
A study by Department of Occupational Therapy at University of Manitoba in Canada indicates that using an ergonomic keyboard long term showed sustained improvements after only 6 months use.
Ergonomics in Information Technology or IT is a way of arranging or positioning the equipment and accessories to improve the relationship of people with them. Here are some of the ergonomics’ objectives:
- To build up workspaces where there will be less injury or harm and minimize the risk of health condition degeneration.
- To ensure that while technology continues to change, the equipment that people use to work, play and rest must also be made according to the body’s needs.
- To be able to create a safe, productive and comfortable workspace that will consider people’s limitations and abilities to the design of the workplace which includes, but is not limited to, the person’s body size, skill, strength, speed, attitude and even sensory abilities such as hearing and vision.
Ergonomics was discovered in 1949, which at the time, was a relatively new science. It relies more on research by different scientific areas such as physiology, engineering, and even psychology. Ergonomics uses data coming from those scientific areas which are biomechanics – muscles, strength, levers, forces, body shapes, and environmental physics such as noise, light, heat, radiation and more. Hence, the data collected from these branches are used in order to improve the relationship between people and technology as time goes by.
Guide to Keyboard and Mouse Position for Gaming
When it comes to gaming, it is also important for you to note that there are health hazards that come with it. It does not necessarily mean that just because you are sitting in front of the computer and not doing much, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to your health.
Sitting all day without the proper posture and positioning has health risks such as tennis elbow, RSI or repetitive strain injury, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Not to mention the radiation you can absorb from the monitor you are using.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common conditions of people who are working in industries that require constant typing, and this includes frequent gaming. Although there is no solid evidence that shows this is the main reason, most people who are involved in such jobs or have been exposed to too much computer typing, experience this condition one way or another.
Carpal tunnel syndrome does not usually emerge right away. It develops slowly and most of the time it can be mistaken as another sickness or condition. When you finally get to discover that you have such a condition, the pain will have become constant and might be at its worst. When left untreated, the muscles on your thumb can experience atrophy or simply put, become wasted away. Hence, strength and sensation will never be restored completely even with proper treatment or medicine.
Aside from your keyboard and mouse position, it is also important that other factors should be met when you are using your computer. These include the position of the monitor, your posture, and using the right chair. These are all important in order to make sure that you have the right position when using your computer.
Adjusting your keyboard
Incorrect angle and height of your keyboard, mouse, and even the working surface can contribute to lifting your arms and bending your wrists for a long time. This will, therefore, bring in discomfort as you use your computer.
Make sure that the working surface is either raised or lowered depending on your comfortable position. You can achieve this by placing an adjustable keyboard tray or raising your chair and providing a footrest if need be.
Additionally, your keyboard should be placed around 2 to 3 inches on top of your knees using a shelf or a pull-out drawer. For your easy reference, the letter “g” and “h” keys must be aligned with the belly button. Make sure that the keys will be easy to press. Hitting the keys hard just to make it respond will put too much stress on your tendons.
Should you have wrist rests? Good question – try to consider these: keyboards that have wrist rests often increases the pressure on the carpal tunnel at around 200% which is greater than keyboards that don’t have wrist rests. If you really want to put something on the keyboard for support, place it in such a way that the bottom side of the palm rests on the support rather than the wrists.
Furthermore, you can ease the stress on the wrists and let them relax by placing them on a neutral position with a good arm position. Set up the keyboard in a downward angle and at a comfortable distance from you. Try to prop your wrist in such a way that they are around an inch or two higher on the far side of the keyboard. Adjust them accordingly, depending on what is comfortable for you.
Adjusting the mouse position
A mouse that is not aligned directly to you will force you to frequently reach out during use. This will also cause strain not only on the wrist but on your arms as well. Hence, just like the keyboard, it should be around 2 to 3 inches on top of your knees.
The mouse must be aligned directly in front of or slightly outside the shoulder. You should not reach out for it just to use it. The motion when controlling your mouse must be coming from your elbow and not your wrist.
Try to use a mouse that rotates on top of the keyboard while using it on the same surface. This helps to make sure that you will have a better angle and reduces arm reach.
The distance of your monitor and its height
The placement of your monitor is also important in order to be comfortable. The best visual range of the monitor is around 1 to 2 feet away from the face. The monitor’s center should be around 15-30 degrees below the line of sight. This is because you don’t want to be bending just to look down on your screen or straining hard just to focus on the screen.
If you are tall, try to stack some books or maybe a small box under the monitor to position it in the best way possible for you to be comfortable when looking at it. Also, try to consider the lighting adjustment to minimize the amount of radiation it emits on you. This will also help in lessening eye strain.
Choosing the right chair
After knowing how to position keyboard and mouse for gaming, the next step is choosing the right chair. This process can be quite tricky and daunting. There are many things that you need to consider in order to have the perfect fit. Hence, choose a chair that has armrests that support your elbows and forearms. This will help to reduce stress on your neck, upper back and shoulders. Armrests typically should be at the same level with the belly button.
Also, your chair must be at the right height with your monitor, keyboard, and mouse. You also have to make sure that your knees are comfortably bent and both of your feet are on the ground. If you happen to be a bit shorter, just place a stool or a small box where you can place your feet on the ground. This will help to relieve the stress on your back.
Finally, you may look for a chair that swivels, rolls, or both, especially if you have many monitors. This will prevent you from twisting or straining your spine.
Practice good sitting posture
The best sitting position should be to start on a 90-degree angle, which is the neutral position. Once you are in a neutral position, adjust the chair accordingly in order to support your position. A neutral position should look like this: Both feet on the ground, the pelvis is not twisted, your lower back on a slight extension, your chest elevated and your head should be over the shoulders.
Once you are seated in that position, find your core and avoid slumping. It may be hard at first but it will be beneficial in the long run. Make sure to observe this at all times so you can get used to it in the long run.
Try to look for an alternative keyboard style
The most common keyboard styles are those that are flat, standard-issue which contribute to making your computer usage uncomfortable. However, there are now a lot of ergonomically designed keyboards that will help to ease pressure on your wrist.
You can check out keyboards that have split key types and are raised a bit to help reduce the pressure on forearms and wrists. There are also some models that have small keyboard wells which are made to minimize reaching for keys because the keys are close to each other. Another design is called the “Dvorak” keyboard where keys that are used frequently are placed in the middle row, where your strongest fingers can easily type in. This allows lesser finger motion, less error and increases typing speed.
Tips for healthy mouse and keyboard usage
Here are some tips to minimize strain and use your mouse and keyboard comfortably:
- Stretch your hands including your wrists every day.
- Use ergonomic equipment and work stations.
- Always observe good sitting posture.
- Take constant breaks. Shake your arm and legs and then lean back. Try to change your position throughout the day.
- Don’t bang your keyboard. When typing, be sure to type lightly.
- Consider using shortcuts or macros, especially for repetitive tasks. This will minimize your movement while typing.
- Always keep your wrists in a neutral position and not bent.
- Relax your elbows and shoulders while typing.
- Avoid using a trackpad and laptop keyboard as they are not suitable for longer usage.
Your setup must be something that allows you to experience comfort. Your head and back should be properly supported, your arms supported and your wrists in a neutral position, which means they are not bent in any direction and can create a straight line coming from the elbows to the fingertips. The knees should also be comfortably bent with both feet on the ground.
Try to arrange your gaming place in such a way that you don’t have to reach hard for something. This may cause strain on your muscles and of course, you want to avoid becoming injured as much as possible. Place all the things that you need closer so that you can get to them even without leaving your chair.
The set up of your gaming place or workspace should be unique which is based on your equipment, size, and space. You don’t need to have the right ergonomics every time but if you can do some small changes with your workplace it will help prevent health hazards in the future.