I have been spending a lot more time than usual in front of my computer this past couple of months. The result? Pain in my right shoulder, and numbness in my right arm and wrist! :-( Even my eyes are beginning to feel the strain. My right eye is tearing up more than usual. For the pain in my right shoulder, I have even resorted to taking muscle relaxants to ease the tension on my shoulder. There have been times when the numbness in my right arm got so bad that I had to stop working on my computer.

What I am experiencing is what is known as computer related stress injuries. According to a research published in 1997 by a scientist at San Francisco State University, people who use a mouse with their computer suffer more than twice as much muscle tension in their arms, necks and shoulders as those who don't use a mouse. :-( I prefer to use the mouse than the touch pad pointer on my laptop computer because the touch paid strained my muscles in my palm and fingers. Looks like I can't win with either method!

The good news is that there are some guidelines that computer users can follow to minimize computer related stress injuries. The following suggestions were compiled by Digital Network.

    1. Stretch while seated at your desk in order to prevent some injuries.

    2. The target field (the size and point on the screen that you look at) should be set so that it can be seen conveniently without shifting or tilting your your head. You should be able to see the top of the target field. An adjustable monitor stand may help. Your head should face in a straight, neutral position - not facing either upward or downward.

    3. Exercise while at your desk. Drop your head gently forward. Slowly rotate it clockwise and counterclockwise. Blink frequently to moisten your eyes so that they feel less tired. You may need to use use eye drops to moisten them still more if you stare at the screen too long.

    4. Stare at a distant object from time to time. You may want to look out the window at a fixed object and then look at something else nearby, like your phone. Keep shifting your point of vision.

    5. Adjust your chair so that your neck is always straight while facing the screen. Don’t hold the phone between your neck and shoulder. If you use the phone a great deal, buy a telephone headset.

    6. Use your right hand to hold on to the seat of your chair. Move your head forward, and then turn and lean to your left. You will feel a stretch from the neck to the top of the shoulder blade. Keep stretching for fifteen seconds. Reverse - do it with your left hand and lean to the right.

    7. If you feel that your shoulders are beginning to be rounded after an extended period of time in the same position, correct it by sitting up with a straight back.

    8. Slowly move your shoulders up and down. Let your arms hang down next to you, and then rotate your shoulders clockwise and counter-clockwise.

    9. Adjust the height of your keyboard and chair so that your arms and elbows are close to your body, and so that your elbow is at a right angle.

    10. Raise your right arm as if to throw an object. Keep stretching back a bit further. Gradually straighten your arm at the elbow. Your arm will then be behind and next to you. Slowly turn your palm upward. Gradually extend your fingers until you feel your muscles stretching at your forearm and wrist. Do it again, this time with your left arm.

    11. Straighten your back. Your arms should be next to you with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Make fists with both hands. Rotate your elbows forward, but keep your fists in front of your waist. Straighten your elbows. Stretch your arms back behind your body. You’ll feel your forearm and wrist muscles stretching.

    12. Your wrists should remain straight as you type. Adjust your keyboard shelf or seat so that they do not go up or down. You may want to put down your keyboard’s little folding “feet”. You may want to consider a foam wrist pad for support if your arms get tired from too much typing.

    13. Look for a comfortable mouse. There are special mouses (yes, that’s the plural form for a computer mouse) for lefties and righties, and for small or large hands.

    14. Hold both hands in a clapping position. Use the palm of one hand to press back the wrist and fingers of the other hand. After three seconds, rest and then repeat this stretch for your other hand. Do this procedure five times for each hand.

    15. Keep your fingernails short, so that you don’t have to use the pads of your fingers. Your fingers should be relaxed and slightly curved when typing.

    16. While keeping your wrists straight, stretch the fingers of both hands apart as widely as you can for three seconds. Relax. Do it again and again, for a total of five times.

    17. Sit straight. Keep your supplies handy so that you don’t have to stretch for them.

    18. This exercise and the following one may be dangerous for those who suffer from back problems: Touch your shoulders with your fingertips while sitting at the edge of your chair. Gradually twist and stretch right to left.

    19. Lock the fingers of your hands together behind your head. Slowly tilt and stretch your body from side to side.

    20. Your lap and your feet should rest comfortably. They should be parallel to the floor. Either adjust your seat or use a footrest with a nonslip surface. Be sure there is enough room under your desk to stretch your legs.

    21. Take frequent but short walks. Handle small errands in the office yourself, as an excuse to get up and walk around. It’s best to get up every twenty to thirty minutes, and you should never sit in the same position for more than 2 hours. From time to time, take a fast-paced walk around the neighborhood. Unless your neighborhood is even more dangerous than the effects of repetitive stress injuries.

2 comments

  1. douglas210 // 11:48 AM, September 17, 2007  

    Puteri,

    Why not just get away from the computer once in a while? Go out and water the garden. Dig up the weeds. Sure cure for "Computer Induced Aches". Hee hee!

  2. Puteri // 11:57 AM, September 17, 2007  

    Hah! What I need are ergonomic desk chairs!

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