5 Easy Ways to Know Your Home Office Desk is Giving You Tingling Fingers 

tingling finger working from home
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Hi! I'm Ugo Akpala-alimi MSc.

Ugo is a Work Health and Ergonomics Consultant for Solopreneurs.

She is a UK Chartered Physiotherapist with a Masters in Ergonomics. With a whopping 20 years of experience across various healthcare sectors including blue-chip companies.

From treating numerous work-related injuries to performing countless ergonomic assessments, she’s an expert on the havoc injuries wreak on health and business.

Now, she’s on a mission to help solopreneurs overcome work-related aches and pains. So they can work and build their businesses pain-free.

I once used a dining table as my working-from-home workstation. 

It was the only table we had in our small apartment. 

So, I thought it would do.

But it didn’t take long before I developed wrist pain. Every time I typed on my keyboard, I got shooting and tingling pain in my wrist. When it got so bad it started travelling up my elbow. It hurt so much that I hated typing. I was looking for alternative ways of writing assessment reports for my clients. 

However, I was lucky to know how to assess my workstation. 

And guess who the culprit was? 

Yes, you guessed right: my dining table. My make-shift home office desk was giving me tingling fingers.

My dining table was too sharp and angular that it dug into my wrist every time I was working from my laptop. It also didn’t help that I worked from a dining chair. Dining chairs just like armchairs aren’t adjustable. I couldn’t raise the seat so my wrist hung on the edge of the dining table.

Are you having tingling fingers when typing? 

How Does Tingling in Your Fingers Occur 

There is a tunnel in the wrist called the Carpal Tunnel where nerves of the hand, blood vessels and tendons pass through to supply your hands. The tunnel is tight-packed and with the edge of the table digging into it, the pressure in this tunnel builds up and irritates the nerve. 

If that pressure becomes unbearable, you’ll develop an injury known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that occurs when the median nerve, which runs from your forearm into your hand, becomes compressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of your thumb and fingers, except for your little finger. It also controls some small muscles at the base of your thumb. 

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually start gradually and cause discomfort in your wrist and the palm of your hand. The symptoms include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers
  • Pain or burning sensation in the hand, wrist, or forearm.
  • Weakness or difficulty gripping objects with the hand or thumb.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may also affect one or both hands and worsen over time. As it progresses, it interfere with your daily activities, such as typing or driving.

Why Home Office Desk could be giving you Tingling Fingers

One of the issues of working from home is the use of non-standardised office desks. When you worked in the office, your office desk was bought from an office furniture dealer. They knew the standards required for office desks. The right height, radiused edge, surface material and adequate legroom clearance. It was easy to use standardised office desks.

But with working from home you have to get your own office desk. It might be make-shift desk like my dining table, your kitchen counter, bar table or dresser. Or you have a proper office desk that fits your space. But is it ergonomically adequate to prevent you from the risk of injury.

Do you think your home office desk is giving you tingling fingers? Here is how to tell.

1. Is Your Home Office Desk Too High?

a. A desk that’s too high for you mean that you would have to raise your shoulder. And that would make your shoulders and neck work harder. Which then leads to early onset of tiredness. You keep working and the tired leads to pain and discomfort. Before you know it, you develop neck or shoulder injuries.

b. A high desk would make you also fan out your elbows away from your side. And that puts excessive pressure on your shoulders and back, leading to shoulder pain and injury.

c. It also put your wrists in danger. With your desk too high for your wrists to reach, they hang off the table. The wrists then dig into the table and put pressure on the tendons and nerves of the wrist.  

How Would You Know Your Home Office Desk Is Too High?

TAKE THIS TEST:

  • Sit on your office chair.
  • Do not use your arm rest.
  • Bend your elbow to 90 degrees (perfect L-shaped) and keep them by your side
  • Your table should be at the same height as your forearm.

Is it? 

Or Is it higher or lower than your forearm and hand? 

If your forearm and hands are higher, than your desk is too high for you.

Ergonomic Recommendation  

If you are using an adjustable office chair, raise your seat height so your desk is a level with your forearm.

If you don’t have an adjustable chair, then I’d advise you invest in one.

2. Is The Edge Of Your Table Sharp And Angular? 

Your wrists frequently rest on your desk when you are typing, browsing or writing. If the edge of the desk is sharp, it would dig into your wrist increasing the pressure in the carpal tunnel of the wrist. 

How Would You Know Your Desk Is Sharp-Edged?

a. Simply run your finger along the edges applying a slight pressure as you go along.  How does it feel? 

Does it dig into your finger? Does it hurt?

b. Eyeball the edge. Does it look angular? Sharp lines?

Difference:

A rounder edge would have a small curve and it wouldn’t dig into your finger.

Ergonomic Recommendation

Modify your desk so the edges become rounded or radiused. Alternatively, go shopping for a computer desk with rounded or radiused edges. That’s what I finally did, and my wrist started healing. I still had to treat it, but the root cause of my pain was eliminated.

If you do not change the edge of your table, it would repeatedly irritate your nerve, giving you tingling fingers.

3. Is Your Work Surface Matte or Gloss Finish?

Does your desk surface look shiny? If it is then it’s gloss-finished. There is nothing wrong with a glossy desk. However, as a computer desk, it would bounce or reflect light from the computer to your face and eyes. This is known as GLARE. And glare causes eye strain and headaches.

How Does Glare Give You Tinging Fingers?

Directly, glare never gives you tingling fingers. But with glare hitting your eyes, you might adjust your sitting posture to see your screen. You could move closer and lean your wrist on the edge of the desk. Conversely, you might decide to move further away, overstretching and putting more pressure on your wrist. 

What You Can Do?

A matte-finished desk is the best surface to work from. The light hardly reflects from it, so you could never have glare. 

With that in mind, you might need someone conversant with woodwork. I’m not one. So, I’m not the best person to advise. Just did a quick research on Google. And the advice given is that you can either sand it down or recoat with a matte finish max. (don’t quote me on that though!).

Or if you are like me (rubbish at DIY) you can trade it in for a matte-finish rounded-edged desk.

4. Is Your Desk Too Low?

Similar to a high desk, a low desk is also not ideal. A low desk would mean you would have to stoop and bend your back and neck to see the screen. A prolonged bent spine increases pressure in the intervertebral discs of the spine. This pressure might lead to back pain, ‘slipped disc’ (prolapsed disc) and sciatica.

Working in that awkward posture could cause pinching of the nerves in your neck. A pinched neck can radiate to your hand and wrist, giving off tingling fingers. 

How Would You Know Your Desk Is Too Low?

Is your forearm much lower than your elbow? 

Are you having to bend lower (stoop) to work from your desk?

Your forearm should be at the same height or marginally lower than your elbow. Stooping to see your screen from a low desk could put pressure on your wrist, increasing your risk of tingling fingers. 

Ergonomic Recommendation

You can raise the desk with table or furniture risers. 

5. Do You Have Enough Legroom?

A low table or a computer desk with two sets of storage to each side of the desk could reduce your legroom allowance. A desk that would house your desktop PC Tower by the side of the desk might also reduce your legroom allowance. Another case would be a desk of small depth that would prevent you from stretching out your legs. 

They all would leave you in a cramped posture. Awkward posture could pinch the nerve in your neck, which in turn could radiate down your arms and wrist, giving you tingling fingers.

How Would You Know You Have Enough Legroom?

Can you stretch out your legs without being restricted?

Is the underbelly of the desk touching your thighs?

Can you widen your legs unrestricted?

Ergonomic Recommendation

Replace your desk. 

Unfortunately, but there’s no alternative or modification you can do to improve the legroom. You would have to knock the sides or table legs out, which would structurally damage the desk. 

Don’t Try To Fit Into Your Desk

It might feel like you have gotten away with it if your desk has these issues I have raised, and you haven’t had any injuries (yet). 

But desk-related injuries take time to develop but eventually, they will appear. It would start with a niggle or twinge, then ache and finally pain. And if unattended, would result in injury. Do the best you can to get an office standard desk, so it serves you well and keeps you safe from injury. 

Written by Ugo Akpala-alimi Msc.

Written by Ugo Akpala-alimi Msc.

Ugo is a Work Health and Ergonomics Consultant for Solopreneurs. She is a UK Chartered Physiotherapist with a Masters in Ergonomics. She draws from 20 years of diverse experience across the NHS, private healthcare, and occupational health sectors. Having treated thousands of work-related injuries and conducted hundreds of ergonomic assessments, she possesses a deep understanding of the detrimental effects of work-related injuries on workers’ health. After being a freelancer herself, she is now on a mission to help solopreneurs resolve work-related pain so they can work pain-free, enabling them to thrive and build their businesses.

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