Common Causes of Discomfort for Computer Users

Revised 2020.06.20

The best way to prevent discomfort is to set up your workstation ergonomically and follow healthy work habits. Here are some links to help you with that.

If you are already experiencing discomfort, look below for the body part that is affected and some ideas about what is causing it.

Whole body/All body parts

Prolonged uninterrupted computer use

Not knowing important adjustments (e.g. desk, chair, monitor, mouse)


Glare/reflections (windows, office lights)

Lighting too bright or dark

Small fonts on screen

Screen too bright or dim (wrong colour/brightness/contrast settings)

Screen too high, far or close

Poor quality paper documents (e.g. handwritten, faint, small print)

Vision correction lacking or incompatible with monitor characteristics/position


Looking at: 
  • Keyboard
  • Paper [height, angle, distance]
  • Screen [height, angle, distance]
  • Portable technology
  • Visitors
Holding Telephone

Forward head

Reclined sitting posture with wrong screen height/angle 

See Eyes for other possible causes

Shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers

Reach for:
  • Armrests
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Number pad
  • Calculator
  • Telephone
  • Items on desk, shelves
Seat at wrong height for task or vice versa

Increased reaches due to armrests hitting desk, chair legs or your legs hitting obstructions [see Legs]

Elevating shoulders due to high armrests

Middle finger hovering above mouse

Dragging with mouse

Wrist bending sideways [mouse, keyboard]

Wrist bending up [mouse, keyboard, calculator]

Hands NOT floating while typing

Contact pressure: Wrist-desk, Elbow-armrest

Awkward grip [mouse, books, binders, files, stapler, staple remover, pen, smartphone/tablet]

See Neck for other possible causes

Low back

Not using or insufficient lumbar support

Seat too deep

Lumbar support too high or low

Backrest too upright

Seat too low


Twisting, bending, reaching, lifting, carrying

See Legs for other possible causes


Seat too deep, shallow, high or low

Feet not supported properly

Seat too hard or soft

Legroom obstructions [e.g. underside of keyboard tray, objects under desk]