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I've read lots of conflicting advice from reputable sources and personal accounts and I can't make up my mind. If you leave your forearms unsupported you'll developed neck and shoulder problems, and if you support them you'll cause nerve damage (ulnar nerve) and muscle damage due to reduced blood flow (read comment from Bob Whiteman here). What then?

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4 Answers 4

Probably you can get all different answers from sources which has any business in the subject. The truth is that you really need a seriously wrong posture for a long period to damage your nerve or damage your muscles. I am not a doctor but I can tell from perspective of fitness/pilates instructor. The nerve or muscle damage are not from unsupported forearms. In most cases much more underlies the problem. If you want to prevent the problems

  1. change your position often enough.
  2. do exercises.
  3. take position which is the most comfortable but not twisted and without any strains in the body.

On top of it if you keep core muscles in order and do some aerobic movements to have healthy heart, you will not develop nerve or muscle damage because of your forearms support or its lack.

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Yes, but what is a "seriously wrong posture"? Isn't working with unsupported forearms seriously wrong? You have to keep them up by adding tension somewhere (like a suspension bridge). –  obvio171 Dec 1 '12 at 23:04
    
In my experience (I am not a doctor but I teach pilates and have contact with people with the posture problems) the most problems comes from injuries, the most injuries could be prevented by regular exercises and healthy lifestyle. To damage nerve or muscles someone would need to stay on twisted, very uncomfortable position for hours during the day probably for months. If you keep your position reasonably comfortable, change quite often and do exercises you very unlikely to damage your nerves or muscles. –  tomasz74 Dec 2 '12 at 9:24

imho, this is one of the things which does require a specialist (physical therapy) - they will check the way you are sitting and recommend the best position (you might think that you are following examples from the books etc exactly, but it's very easy to overlook important things)

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Additionally, the therapists recommend regular change of position. –  Rory Alsop Nov 20 '12 at 13:09

Oddly enough, I've found that kneeling chairs help with this.

Yes, Jeanne, I can. I've found that when I sit in kneeling chairs, I automatically sit up straight. This reduces the amount of strain upon my shoulders and neck. I found kneeling chairs helped my back, and that it turn reduced shoulder and neck tension.

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3  
We generally prefer longer answers here at stack exchange. Can you elaborate? –  Jeanne Boyarsky Nov 20 '12 at 0:41
    
There's nothing supporting your arms? If you have to hold them floating over a keyboard by muscular strength, it's bound to cause stress. Presumably in the neck/shoulder area. –  obvio171 Dec 1 '12 at 23:01

Invest in an adjustable-height desk (I wish I had gotten one years ago!). They might not come as cheap as a normal desk, but being able to sit and stand up at different times during the day will make a huge difference on your back, legs, and neck.

I mostly spend the day standing, but then I sit down a couple of times during the day when I get tired.

Also, take breaks. Don't work for periods much longer than 60 minutes without leaving your desk. That's usually when I just go for some water (important to stay hydrated too) and fruit. Or just go to the toilet!

Also, if you are using the keyboard a lot, get an ergonomic one. I recommend the kinesis freestyle. Not as weird as other ergonomic keyboards, and much better than other so-called ergonomic keyboards that aren't really so. It will allow you to keep your arms in a wider position, helping reduce the tension on neck and shoulders; and your wrists in a wider angle, thus helping avoid carpal tunnel syndrome as well.

Some people think these keyboards are too weird and only for geeks, but anybody spending more than 4 continuous hours on a keyboard really should get one of these.

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