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Let me ask you something, how do you currently sit at your desk? Do you place your body in the following positions:
A – Slouched forward.
B – Slouched forward with your head resting on your palm.
C – Sitting too low in your chair.
D – Sitting back with your legs on your chair (I did this all the time!).
If your answer is any one of these positions, chances are, you haven’t learned the basic ergonomic principles for PC gaming. So how do you improve ergonomics at your desk?
In this simple guide, I’ll be going over what ergonomics is, its benefits, some tips to optimize your battlestation, and a few products that have helped to keep my body feeling pain-free.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of people working efficiently. The term was coined by the Greeks. Ergon (εργο) is the word for work, while nomos (νομός) is the word for law. Put them together and you get the laws of work (εργονομία), also known as ergonomics!
The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines ergonomics as a “scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements. It is the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”
How Did Ergonomics Become What It Is Today?
Before desks and offices, humans indirectly practiced ergonomics for centuries. Research shows that ergonomics dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. One of the first documented examples of ergonomic design came from the Father of Medicine himself, Hippocrates. Hippocrates advised surgeons to either sit or stand based on the type of operation that was being performed; the most comfortable position was always ideal. He also made recommendations regarding surgical tools. For example, they had to be placed near the surgeons operating hand as well as be a specific shape, size, and weight to support ease of use.
As we progressed through the ages, new inventions and methods that improved our day-to-day lives started to emerge. In the early 1900s, mechanical engineer Frederik Winslow Taylor wanted to make industrial workers more productive in their tasks. One of the highlights of Taylor’s career was his creation of the best-sized shovel for coal workers. He noticed it wasn’t very efficient for workers to use different-sized shovels on the job. After analyzing various weights, sizes, and designs, he created an optimal shovel that all workers would use. Thus, the organization became productive and profitable.
After World War 2, office jobs were becoming widespread across the globe. Today, sitting at a desk for several hours a day for work (and playing games) is now commonplace in our culture. This is why an ergonomic desk setup is more important than ever!
Benefits of Ergonomics While Gaming
Ergonomics is all about optimal positioning for your body. When executed correctly, your health and overall gaming experience will be more enjoyable. Here are some of the benefits I noticed when practicing ergonomics while gaming:
- More focused and alert in multiplayer games
- Reduced pain in my lower-back muscles
- Improved my posture (both when sitting and standing)
- Less strain in my neck
- Better blood circulation to my legs (they would go numb all the time!)
Tips to Improve Your Ergonomics:
Monitor Height and Distance
Poor monitor positioning is one of the leading causes of eye, neck, and back pain when sitting at a desk. The first thing I recommend you do is to check your monitor height. Ideally, the top of your monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. This will bring your neck into a more neutral position as well as minimize movement for your eyes.
After your height is adjusted, the next thing you need to determine is how far you will sit from your monitor. Most experts recommend a distance between 0.508 meters (20 inches) to 1.016 meters (40 inches) from your eyes to the front of your screen. However, it can differ based on the resolution and size of your monitor.
My monitor, which is 2560 by 1440 resolution with 27-inch screen size, would require a viewing distance between 0.43 meters (16.93 inches) to 0.79 meters (31.10 inches). Check out Esports Tales’ guide on ideal monitor distance to learn more.
With around 50% of the population suffering from digital eye strain, there is more you can do to improve the ergonomics of your eyes when gaming.
One of the first things I recommend is to adjust the brightness and colours of your monitor. Many computer monitors are not properly calibrated when you unbox them. They are either very dim or bright; which can create undesirable tension for your eyes. I suggest going to TFT Central, search up the model of your computer monitor, and install the ICC profile on your computer. You can find a quick installation guide by clicking here.
Another important tip is to look at a distant object every 20 to 30 minutes. This will allow your eyes to take a break as well as reduce fatigue during your gaming sessions.
As you witnessed at the begging of this blog post, neither of the four positions I demonstrated are ideal for gaming. So which is the best? To put it simply, the one that uses the triple 90 rule. The triple 90 rule covers three important areas of your body; the angle of your arms, legs, and knees. You should position each joint to about 90 degrees. If 90 degrees is too strict for your body, try something between 90 and 110 degrees.
For your arms, the easiest way to keep them at 90 degrees is by adjusting your armrests to match your desk height. This will ensure that your arms will always be in the right place when gaming.
With your legs and knees, it all comes down to your chair height. Are knees too high? Raise your chair! Are your feet not flat on the floor? Lower it!
For most games, I stick to the default controls that were put in place by the developers. Though for some (especially MMOs), ergonomic keybinds are essential for optimal performance. Is there an ultimate keybind set up for multiplayer games? It depends.
For example, when I play World of Warcraft (WoW) I have my R key as my mobility spell. However, the developers of the game made R the key to reply to whispers in the chat window. Other players might enjoy the default controls. Or, rather than R, they might prefer Q, E, C, or maybe scroll up as their mobility spell button.
We all process information differently, and we are also born with varying hand sizes which can help us reach certain keys better than others. There is no right or wrong way to optimizing keybinds. The best setup is what’s most comfortable for you! Remap your actions to keys that improve your speed and effectiveness in heated situations; that’s how I became a better WoW player.
Are you a WoW player looking to improve your playstyle? Check out Wowhead’s in-depth guide on keybind configuration.
Hand and Wrist Placement
When we pick up and play video games, we tend to place our hands in a position that’s most comfortable for us. Naturally, we stick with what works and go on with our game. Could this lead to physical injuries down the road? Absolutely! There have been many stories where Esport professionals had to go on leave or retire from their careers due to gaming-related injuries.
In a recent article published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the most common gaming injuries they diagnosed with their patients were carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. The surgeons shared several recommendations to prevent future injury. This included better posture and ergonomics, frequent breaks, and focusing on core strengthening exercises.
As the doctors indicated, prevention is key to saving you a trip to the ER. So where should your hands be positioned when playing video games? Let’s take a look.
With your mouse in hand, you want to make sure your forearm is always parallel to your armrest. Not elevated, not declined, perfectly levelled is the most ideal for gaming and general computer use.
Your keyboard hand should be just like your mouse hand, which is in a neutral position. If you’re having trouble with this, I recommend looking into a wrist rest for your keyboard. Fortunately, my Corsair K70 keyboard comes with a fairly decent wrist rest. Research has shown that hand/wrist supports can reduce muscle fatigue in certain upper limb muscles during extensive typing sessions.
Take Regular Breaks
The most important thing you should be doing at your battlestation is taking a break. Stand up, grab a drink, use the restroom, and stretch your body!
Stretching is very beneficial for ergonomics and your overall health. It can help alleviate tight muscles, decrease back pain, improve posture, and reduce the risk of future injuries.
While a pull-up bar is required, one of my favourites stretches to do during an evening gaming session is a dead hang. Dead hangs are amazing for spinal decompression, especially after sitting at the battlestation for several hours.
In an ideal scenario, you should be taking breaks every 45 mins to an hour. But, let’s be honest, certain games can get us carried away with our time. Remember to use your intuition as to when you should take a break. If that’s not possible (trust me, I’ve been there), set a break timer on your phone or computer so you never forget!
Products to Improve Your Ergonomics:
Now that you’ve optimized your battlestation, it’s time we look at some products that can help boost your ergonomic efficiency even further. While not essential, I have experienced notable improvements to my posture and comfort when using these products when gaming at my desk.
The first product on my list is what’s called a posture corrector. It’s a harness that straightens your back and prevents you from slouching forward. Before I started using a posture corrector, I took a look at how I would stand in front of a mirror. My back was mostly straight, but my shoulders were rounding forward. Additionally, I noticed my thumbs were facing inward when I stand up (which is a general indicator for rounded shoulders). I decided to purchase a posture corrector to see if it could help.
After using the posture corrector for 30 minutes a day for a few weeks, my shoulders were almost back to normal. If you’re experiencing a similar issue with your shoulders, I highly recommend giving a posture corrector a try!
One product that can provide an extra bit of comfort while gaming is a compression arm sleeve. Arm sleeves have commonly been used in competitive sports for years due to their health benefits. Some of these benefits include increased blood flow, protection against injuries, and muscle recovery.
Recently, many Esport players and streamers have been seen using compression arm sleeves during competitive play. Why’s that? One, to reduce friction when performing quick movements (primarily in FPS games). And two, to prevent sweat buildup during crucial gameplay moments. I’ve had many moments playing WoW when I had to stop what I was doing, wash my hands, and wipe down my battlestation due to all the sweat I accumulated. Compression sleeves can be great if the points I mentioned apply to you!
|Compression Arm Sleeve|
Comfort is essential for ergonomics. If your body is not in a comfortable position, then it will force itself into one. This can lead to increased back, neck, and shoulder pain in your future. Not a fun time.
At the time, my seat was hard as a rock! I felt I needed to take care of my butt or deal with the pain. And thus, I bought a seat cushion; I was certainly missing out.
Although ergonomic positioning is important, it can’t magically transform an uncomfortable seat into something more pleasant. If you’re a gamer who uses an unconventional chair during play (like a stool or chair from the dinner table), a seat cushion will do the trick!
So you want to go beyond a cushioning upgrade, eh? Nice! But before you go searching for a new computer chair, there are a few things you need to look for when buying one.
One feature that I preach when it comes to looking at computer chairs is lumbar support. Why? Well, without any lumbar support, your lower back will begin to curve outward into an unnatural position. This can cause your lower-spinal discs to become compressed as well as lead to weaker lower-back muscles. Therefore, it’s important to let your lower-back curve inward towards your belly to improve your posture.
Another great feature to look for is adjustable armrests. Adjustable Armrests are excellent for positioning your arms parallel to your desk. Additionally, they relieve tension around your neck and shoulder muscles.
Other notable features you should look for in a chair include tilt adjustment (my favourite feature in my chair), mesh seating, and neck support. The NOUHAUS Ergo3D chair is a nice choice for the price.
My last recommendation for the ultimate ergonomic gaming setup is to use a monitor desk mount.
I recently purchased a dual-monitor mount for my computer desk. My college textbook monitor stands have been decent over the last few years. However, I wanted more space and better cable management for my desk.
The VIVO Dual LCD LED Monitor Desk Mount has made my gaming/work experience more enjoyable. I can now rotate, swivel, and tilt my primary monitor with ease. From blogging, gaming, or watching movies, adjusting my viewing experience couldn’t be easier!
|Monitor Desk Mount|
Ergonomics is something that I believe needs more attention these days. With the pandemic causing many of us to work from home, it makes sense to establish proper ergonomics behaviour before it becomes too late. Give some of these tips a try in your regular gaming routine.
Hope you enjoyed the post, happy gaming!