Computers And Your Health

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Working for long periods of time at a computer can be taxing to your body and to your mind. This document gives you a few tips on how to reduce computer-related health problems such as wrist pain, muscle stress, and eye strain.

Some of this information might be difficult to apply in the public areas (some tips require extensive rearranging of the workspace), but all of these tips should be useful to those who have their own personal computers.

Introduction to Health Issues

Now that computers have become more or less ubiquitous, people are discovering that there are health-related issues attributed to frequent computer use that need to be addressed. The list of problems includes:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Eye strain and vision problems
Muscle stress
Back pain

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is nerve damage that results from the repetitive hand motions and joint posture associated with constant typing. The symptoms are intense pain and lessened motor control in the wrists and hands. Eye strain and subsequent vision loss result from sitting too close to or too far from a computer screen. Muscle stress results from extended periods of computer use without breaks and exercise. Back pain usually comes about because the computer user does not sit properly when working.

Reducing Muscle and Mental Stress

Take Frequent Breaks

You should take a five or ten minute break from working about once every hour. Exercise, take a rest, or do something enjoyable during the break. Don’t think about the work you are doing; this only contributes to muscle and mental strain.

Massage Your Arms and Neck

Massage your hands and forearms several times a day; this will improve circulation. You should also massage your neck muscles to relieve the tension of keeping your head in one position for so long. Work from your head to your shoulders, pressing harder as you descend.

Other tips:

Keep your desk uncluttered and look for ways to reduce or eliminate stress not specifically related to computer use.

Try to work in a warm place. Your muscles must work harder if they are cold, and your hands will hurt and feel weak after working too long in a cold place.

Reduce the glare of the computer screen by adjusting the brightness and contrast to a level comfortable in the room. Too much brightness and contrast will harm the eyes, and too little will force your eyes to overwork.


Computer Placement

Make sure your head is not tilted forward and that the screen is about two feet from your face. The screen should be tilted upward slightly to reduce eye strain.

Do Not Bend Your Wrists

Your hands should float above the keyboard when typing. You should rest your palms on a wrist rest only when you are not typing. If you own an adjustable keyboard, use the split keyboard option to reduce muscle cramps, and keep your wrists in a straight position.


Hands and Arms

Find a ball hard enough to provide resistance but not too strong so as to be difficult to squeeze. Slowly squeeze the ball with your hand ten or fifteen times. Do this exercise frequently, as often as once an hour during extended computer work.

Slowly spread your hands wide, letting your fingers spread apart as much as possible. Then, slowly curl your fingers in (but do not clench your fist). Repeat this process a number of times.

Let your arms drop to your sides and gently shake them out. This will relieve muscle tension.

The Rest of Your Body

While you are working, yawn every once in a while. This will provide more oxygen to your body (doing repetitive, non-active things causes your oxygen intake to decrease, lowering your energy level). On breaks, breathe deeply and smoothly. Try to give yourself as much oxygen as possible.

While you are working, it is a good idea to periodically look away from the screen and focus your eyes on a distant object. This will give your eyes a break from constantly focusing on one thing.

Reference: Engst, Adam C., “Caring for Your Wrists”

Author: Sohan Shenoy- USA

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