Common Causes of Discomfort for Computer Users

Revised 2024 04 05

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.

1. Whole body/All body parts

  • Prolonged uninterrupted computer use
  • Unbalanced or asymmetric postures
  • Not knowing important adjustments (e.g. desk, chair, monitor, mouse)

2. Eyes

  • 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

3. Neck

  • 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

4. 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

5. Low back

  • Not using or insufficient lumbar support
  • Seat too deep
  • Lumbar support too high or low
  • Backrest too upright
  • Seat too low
  • Slouching
  • Twisting, bending, reaching, lifting, carrying
  • See Legs for other possible causes

6. Legs

  • 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]