Computer Ergonomics: Exercises and Ways to Protect Yourself from Strain and Pain?

Computer ergonomics is the need of the hour. This article discusses the ways to protect yourself from strain and pain. Ergonomics is the discipline which focuses on formulating job equipment for the workers. The main motto is to enhance the appropriate fit between each worker and their workplace. This is done in order to gain maximum performance benefits and minimize the risk of pain and strain.

Computer Ergonomics

Computer ergonomics is the branch of ergonomics, which focuses on working out ways in order to optimize the worker’s computer workstation and diminish risks of neck and back pain, computer vision syndrome (CVS), carpal tunnel syndrome and other ailments in the muscles, spine, and joints.

People spend long hours in front of a computer without realizing the hazardous effects it has on their bodies. The already exerted physical stress is heightened by the extension of the wrists, sitting without foot support, slouching, and looking at poorly placed monitors or not having enough screen brightness. These poor postures often result in repetitive stress injuries or in cumulative trauma disorders which takes a life-long toll on the user’s body, without the user paying much attention to it. Symptoms include pain, muscle fatigue, looks of sensation, tingling and reduced performance. Studies have suggested that ergonomic deficiencies in design and layout at the workstation can result in health issues and pain.1

This is where computer ergonomics plays an important role. The goal of computer ergonomics is to provide a comfortable and relaxed position.

Common Ailments of Computer Ergonomics

In this digitally active world, a computer is a must-have tool. It is vital equipment for all individuals in all fields. Since the usage of computers is not only limited to a single person or a single organization, the injuries and disorders related to prolonged computer use are also widely spread. Computer ergonomics can help in making the necessary changes and

Here are some common ailments:

  • Prolonged computer use can result in posture-related issues such as neck pain, back pain, and arm pain. It can also pressurize the muscles and joints and result in fatigue and tiredness.
  • This can also result in ‘overuse injury’, which usually occurs in the muscles and tendons of elbows, wrist, and hand.
  • Focusing on a computer screen for a long time can result in eye strain. The LED screen can result in eye fatigue. Blurred vision, temporary inability to look at distant objects and headaches are some of the common problems of eye fatigue.
  • Not only desktops but also laptops can be the source of problems such as back pain, neck strain and if left untreated can result in serious injuries.
  • Being addicted to playing computer games for continuous hours can result in overuse injuries of the hand, obesity, muscle and joint problems, behavioral problems like aggressive behavior and so on.

How to Protect Yourself From Strain and Pain Due to Computer Ergonomics?

After knowing the ailments related to computer ergonomics, it is important to know how to protect yourself from strain and pain due to computer ergonomics. The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has come up with some tips and tricks to save the user’s body from prolonged computer use.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Make sure that the neck and head are upright and in alignment with the torso. Bent or tilted posture will increase the risk of pain and strain.
  • It is advisable to face the screen directly. Avoid viewing the screen with head turned or twisted back.
  • The workplace should be properly arranged in order to ensure the free movement of the body. Restricted or confined movements may result in pain or muscle fatigue.
  • The mouse should be placed closer to the body in order to avoid reaching out for it. This will allow the elbows to comfortably rest.
  • A chair with a cushioned seat and a contoured front edge should be used in order to provide the correct support to the back.
  • The computer display should be positioned at or slightly below eye level in order to check neck pain.
  • The monitor should be placed close enough to the body in order to provide comfortable reading without having to lean forward.
  • The computer screen should not be too close to the face so as to avoid eyestrain.
  • The contrast and brightness of the screen should be adjusted according to the main source of light during work.
  • The main source of light such as natural or artificial light should not be reflected directly to the face or the computer screen.
  • The document holder while working with print documents must be positioned at the same distance and height as the computer screen.
  • It is advisable to use a hands-free headset for talking over the phone while working at the computer.
  • While working on a laptop, it should be placed at an eye level with the help of some books or should be used sitting on a table and chair. This will ensure correct posture and will prevent bending or tilting.
  • If eyeglasses are used, then they should fit perfectly in order to avoid tilting of the head.
  • Typing should be done with light strokes in order to keep the muscles relaxed and avoid fatigue.
  • If possible, hands should be switched while using a mouse.
  • If the work assignment is time-consuming, then it should be broken into smaller segments inserting a break every now and then. This will ensure relaxed and comfortable work.
  • Frequent movement of 10-20 seconds after every 7 minutes will ensure relaxed tissues and improve blood circulation reducing fatigue and stiffness.
  • The upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor and not stretched or angled backward.
  • The forearms, wrists, and hands should form a 90-degree angle with the upper arms.
  • The thighs should be parallel and the lower legs perpendicular to the floor.
  • The wrist and hands should not rest on sharp edges. This will result in pain and strain.
  • It is also advisable to blink eye frequently in order to avoid computer dryness. In case of excessive dryness eye drops should be used in order to keep them lubricated.

These tips are found to be useful in order to relieve stress and computer vision syndrome. These tips will also ensure that the worker’s body is free from any pain or fatigue in order to keep it safe for a longer period of time. Furthermore, there are certain exercises which can be adopted in order to avoid these situations.

Exercises to Treat Strain and Pain Related to Computer Ergonomics

When considering ways to protect yourself from strain and pain, one also needs to consider therapeutic exercises.

Neck and Shoulders

  • Tilt the head as far as comfortable to the right and then left. This should be done a couple of times until felt completely relaxed.
  • Rotate the shoulders first clockwise and then anti-clockwise in order to relieve stiffness.
  • Place the hand on the neck and tilt the bead to the left side so that the left ear touches the left shoulder, by exerting some pressure. This will ensure freedom from neck pain.
  • Tuck the chin inwards without bending the neck up or down, against a wall. This will ensure free movement of the neck.
  • The shoulder blade retraction by pulling the shoulders back and down will provide relaxed shoulder muscles.
  • Shrugging the shoulders upwards and holding that position for a few seconds will also ensure relaxation of the shoulders.

Back and Arms

  • Doing a shoulder squeeze by pulling the shoulders back with keeping the hands raised in front of the body and keeping the elbows bent and thumbs up will ensure freedom from pain at the spine.
  • Sitting up straight and stretching, trying to be as tall as possible will also be helpful in relieving back pain. This will also ensure correct posture and will avoid bending of the back.
  • Doing an arm relaxation by gently dropping the arms on both sides and lightly shaking them will avoid stiffness.
  • Rotating the arms by making the palms face inwards and outward will also provide relaxation to the hands.

Hands and Wrists

  • Place the elbows on the desk and gently use the right hand to bend the wrist of the right hand towards the forearm. Hold this position for a few seconds until the pressure is felt. Let go and repeat on the other side. Doing this wrist flex will provide the flexibility of the wrists.
  • Spread the fingers as far as possible, contract into a fist and then release. Repeating this several times will release tension from the fingers.

Feet

  • Curling up the toes for a few seconds will relieve the strain from the feet, which occurs due to prolonged sitting at one position.
  • Rotating the feet clockwise and then anti-clockwise will also relieve stress from the feet.

Eyes

  • Rolling the eyes clockwise and anti-clockwise for few seconds will relieve stress from the eyes.
  • Cupping the eyes for a few seconds without actually touching it will break contact with light thereby relaxing it.
  • It is advisable to look at distant objects periodically to avoid eye strain.

Conclusion

Computer ergonomics is essential are that needs attention for people spending most of their time doing a desk job. If you are wondering, how to protect yourself from strain and pain, you must be aware of the dos and don’ts when using the computer. Also, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important. Doing regular physical activities are also capable of avoiding and treating issues related to computer use. This will help in building up stamina, flexibility in joints and muscles and also increase cardiovascular health. The feeling of constant pain, numbness and weakness should only be treated after consulting a doctor.

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