HEALTHY COMPUTER HABITS
In today’s world, most of the members of our family will spend a significant amount of time in front of a computer screen daily ( be it a normal PC, laptop, pad or mobile device), with resultant aches and pains that could be felt in the neck, shoulder, upper and lower back, wrist and elbow joints, and sometimes, even into the hands. Most of the symptom in the shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands are due to overuse (Repetitive Strain Injury/ RSI) and the following may be contributing factors:
- Slouching while using the computer screen puts undue strain on the neck, back, shoulder girdles and upper limbs and eyes.
- Poor ergonomics– viz a poorly designed workstation that does not fit you
- Worker techniques egs pounding the keyboard, using your wrist to move the mouse or gripping the mouse too tightly.
- Work habits- we were not designed to sit in front of the computer for prolonged periods of time, with research proving that it causes many medical issues, not only biomechanical stress and strain. Thus the advent of sit-stand desks which are becoming more popular.
DON’T IGNORE EARLY WARNING SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS egs. weakness, discomfort, pain, numbness, tingling etc . The longer you leave an overuse injury, the tougher it is to treat.
The Canadian Physiotherapy Association has created the following acronym, S.M.A.R.T., that you and your family can use to follow at home, school and work:
Stretch- Every 20-60 mins do 3-4 stretches (hands, shoulders, neck or trunk). One can use computer software to remind you to take micro-breaks eg. ‘Exercise breaks’ at www.computerfit.com.
Move-Every hour, at least, you should stand up and stretch or walk around for a few paces to promote blood flow to the extremities. Even if you cannot move from your workstation, the simple act of standing up helps to de-load the spine. Get regular daily exercise eg. Short walks or taking the stairs etc.
Add it up-Vary your tasks egs. keyboarding, filing, telephone, reading documents etc so as to avoid being in one position for too long at a time.
Reduce strain- Have your workstation set up ergonomically for you – Refer to next Blog post on Ergonomics. If you spend all day on the computer, you might not want to surf the internet all night long or play PC games, knit or crochet, since these activities use the same muscle groups that were used all day long, thus not providing enough rest for the muscles and tendons.
Talk to a physiotherapist- RSI can be prevented, however, early intervention is the best form of treatment. The physio will assess and treat you and provide recommendations for return to work, or sport, or activities of daily living, as well as provide guidance on how to prevent recurrence.