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Guidelines for desks and chairs while editing

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Are there any recommended guidelines for appropriate desk heights/chair heights and distance from one another?

I ask because whether I'm using my mouse, or practicing with my wacom tablet, for photo editing, my right arm (the editing arm) becomes painful to the point that even massaging the knots out doesn't help much.

I have a conventional desk with a drawer for the keyboard, which is where my wacom tablet lives. My mouse sits on the desk surface adjacent to the monitor.  My chair, however, is not a standard issue desk chair. It was available, and I nabbed it for desk duty.  The seat is approximately 5 inches below the desk drawer.

At present, my schedule doesn't allow me to take frequent breaks of over 10 minutes, so most of my editing is done in one shot over the course of a few hours. I'm wondering if my chair is too tall, or if I'm sitting too close to the desk.....or if I'm doing something else wrong.

Any helpful advice will be gratefully received.

Thanks, in advance.


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I have had this problem too.

I urge you not to mess around with dubious internet advice.  Seek the professional advice of an occupational therapist. That's what I did, and it was WELL worth the money.  Don't take risks with your health.

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My options for a solution to this problem have been and still are limited by a) lack of money; b) lack of insurance; and c) lack of space.

a) At the moment, 56% of my income goes to paying off debt. I have little choice on this one. My budget is arranged so that I can pay off the existing debt in 2.5 years. I cover basic medical and dental out of my budget, but that's it, for medical expenses.

b) I have two businesses, in addition to two jobs. The income stream from those two businesses has been unpredictable, and in combination with the income from the two jobs, has made it impossible to get any kind of affordable health insurance. Finding an occupational therapist that I could both afford and who would accept cash payments has proved impossible in my area.

c) My office takes up half of my clothes closet, so my desk/chair arrangement has to conform to the space available, and this is where I went wrong in my choice of desk and chair.

I'm taller than average, but did not stop to take that into account when selecting a desk that could hold a monitor, laptop (acts as my cpu), a keyboard, and my wacom tablet. I found one that could do the job and that fit both my closet and my budget. Big mistake #1.  I had no money for a "desk chair", so grabbed one of the many unused chairs strewn about the house. It's fine for eating at the dining table, but not so fine for working at the desk. Big mistake #2.

Now, combine mistakes 1 and 2 with the fact that the inappropriate heights exacerbate my tendency to rest my weight on my right arm/shoulder and my here-to-fore unknown predilection for holding tension in that arm while working on editing photos. (I had not realized that I tended to maintain a death grip on both the mouse---which I've stopped using for the most part, for photo editing---and the wacom pen. *siiiiiiiiigh*) As a result, the muscle knots and shooting pains were epic.

Solutions: If changing my work environment is not possible at this time, then the solution is to spend as little time as possible at my desk (without sacrificing the quality of my work). Therefore:

1. I force myself to take frequent, short breaks that involve stretching my muscles. I use an app on my phone to do this (20 minutes work; 5 minute break; three repeats of this, followed by longer 10 minute break; Repeat entire sequence), but using a kitchen timer would work just as well. No round of photo editing may go longer than 2 hours. At two hours, I turn to other tasks and work on them for an hour, before returning to photo editing. 

2. I am studying and working on being more efficient and competent at the photo retouching. The less time spent at the desk at this task, the better, so my approach involves the following: a) getting the image as close to perfect, IN THE CAMERA, as possible; b) taking your classes and following your instructions (this alone, brought retouching time down dramatically; c) being mindful of keeping my arm tension free and of not resting my weight on my arm (ie---good posture!) while photo editing.

2a. I really do need to resubmit images so that I can take the next set of courses....Levels, I think?

3. Regular, daily exercise. This is my stress relief and it is absolutely essential. I've noted that on days when I don't get at least a 30 minute walk in, my arm hurts more. Fortunately, two very large, active German Shepherd pups guarantee some kind of outdoors exercise (walking and/or playing fetch) on a daily basis. I supplement that with Zumba classes (gets me out of the house and with people, which is good for my mood), Kettlebell, and Swimming. (Yes, I have a lot of stress. All of this keeps me on an even keel, emotionally, psychologically, and physically.)

I realize that this is not the optimal solution, but it's the best that I can do with what resources I do have. :)

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