Most common computer related health risks you must know about

computer vision syndrome

Computer related health risks!

 

The life of a computer professional is centered around a computer. They spend most of their waking hours in front of a computer using it in one way or the other. The use of computer in an incorrect way can result in muscle pain, joint pain, neck and shoulder pain and of course eye strain. If not taken care of in early days, this may result in permanent damage. The risks can be reduced or sometimes totally eliminated by proper workspace design, correction of posture, following good working habits and exercise.

Posture related injuries

Sitting for long hours in front of a computer with a bad posture is deadly. This might result in back pain, shoulder and neck pain, arm pain, wrist pain, joint and muscle problems. When we sit for long hours, our muscles work to keep our body in the upright position. Muscles struggle to hold our body upright in the same posture for a great span of time. This fatigues the muscles and reduces circulation to muscles, bones, tendons. This in turn gives rise to pain and stiffness of muscles and joints. We can reduce and sometimes totally eliminate these problems by following proper posture and modifying our workspace a bit.

Muscle and joint injury prevention tips

a)      The height of your monitor relative to your sitting position is very important. The top margin of your monitor should be aligned to your eye. This puts the whole monitor at a slightly lower level than your eye.

b)      Align your keyboard at such a level that your elbows rest on the arm rests of your chair and yet they are at the side of your body. The keyboard should also be tilted at about 5 to 10 degrees angle to the floor and your forearm should be almost parallel to the floor. The wrists should also be straight and not tilted to your left, right, upward or downward direction.

c)       The height of your chair be such that your feet rest on the floor. If you find that it is a problem then you can use a foot rest.

d)      The chair is very important. You should use an ergonomic chair which gives proper lumbar and neck support while sitting. The back of the chair should mimic the shape of your spine to give it maximum support while sitting. The seat should have proper cushioning with a waterfall front edge. Movable base with 5 castor wheels for stability is advisable. Pneumatic seat height adjustability should be there.

e)      During the use of a computer we interact mostly with the key board and mouse. So it is in our interest that we get an ergonomic key  board and mouse.

f)       Take a short break every half an hour. You need to get up from our chair and walk a few steps.

 

 


 

Overuse related injuries of the upper region

Tendons and muscles can become stiff and painful due to repetitive use and / or bad posture. This kind of injury is very common in the upper limbs and include symptoms like swelling, tingling, pain, numbness, stiffness etc.

Overuse related injuries – prevention tips

a)      The keyboard and the mouse should be kept in the same height

b)      The mouse should be kept very close to the keyboard so that you do not have to reach out for it.

c)       Move your whole arm, not the wrist only, to reach out to the mouse.

d)      Do not pound on the keyboard. Type softly.

e)      Avoid long stretches of typing. Take periodic breaks

f)       Move your arms and stretch them out in the sideward and upward direction sometimes when not typing.

 

 

Eye problems

Eye problems due to the use of computer is also a kind of overuse problem but I deliberately categorized it separately since there are many sides of it. Computer professionals generally use the computer for a long span of time and this cause asthenopia or simply put eyestrain. Computer monitors have a kind of glare which harms our eyes. When we work for long hours we often forget to blink which dries up our eyes.

Prevention of eye problems

a)      Light source is very important. A strong light should not be shining directly on your monitor.

b)      Reduce glare by tilting the monitor to an angle of 5 to 10 degrees with respect to the plane of our face. An anti-glare screen or eyeglass can also be used.

c)       Adjust the brightness and contrast of the monitor to suit the ambient light.

d)      Set the monitor to a refresh rate above 60Hz to reduce flicker.

e)      Keep your computer screen clean of fingerprints or dirt for sharper image.

f)       If you are typing from a manuscript or any other reference material then its placement is important. It should be located above the keyboard and below the monitor so that your eyes and head need to do minimum movement.

g)      Maintain a distance of about an arm’s length from the computer monitor.

h)      As I said before, position the top frame of the computer screen at the same level with your eyes so that the monitor is slightly below your eye level.

i)        The contrast and brightness of your monitor should be so adjusted so as to eliminate glare.

j)        After every 15 to 20 minutes focus your eye on to any far away object. If you have a window in the room the best option is to look out and focus on any far away object. There is a 20-20-20 rule for this. It says focus your eyes every 20 minutes, on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This relaxes the ciliary muscles of your eye.

k)      Remember to blink normally or else your eyes will become dry.

 

 

Injuries from the use of laptop

Laptop computers were designed to be used sparingly. They were never meant to be a replacement of a desktop computer. Today contrary to this laptops are increasingly being used as a replacement to a desktop computer.

The keyboard of a laptop is small and the use of touchpad puts strain on your wrist. Also most of the times laptops are actually used on laps and so you have to bend your back in order to get a good look at the screen. This posture results in back pain.

Prevention of injuries from laptop

a)      If you have to use a laptop then try to use an independent monitor, keyboard and a mouse used for desktops.

b)      The same formula once again – have frequent breaks.

c)       Do not use laptop on your lap. Use it on a desk at least.

 

 

Some computer related injuries

Let us also discuss some of the most common computer related health problems.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This is a painful condition which is caused when a nerve called median nerve is compressed when it crosses the wrist to enter the hand. This nerve is responsible for the movement of the hand. It also helps in the movement of the thumb and the middle finger of your hand.

Carpal Tunnel is a passageway on the lower side of the wrist that connects the forearm to the middle compartment of the palm. This tunnel is very rigid and narrow so if there is any inflammation or shrinkage then this tunnel almost closes causing increased pressure on the nerve.

It is seen that repeated movement of the wrist from prolonged use of the computer key board can cause this problem called the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Patients complaint about pain in the forearm region along with numbness in the finger of the affected hand. There is also a loss of strength and co-ordination in the hands.

Treatment

If not very acute and severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome respond well to rest, warm compression, anti-inflammatory medications, wrist splints and rarely steroid injections. If the patient does not respond to this or if the symptoms are very severe then surgical procedure called ‘carpal ligament release’ procedure may be carried out.

 


 

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)

We have discussed this before under the heading “eye problems” but since this is the most common problem of computer use, it needs a more detailed treatment. Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS is a temporary condition resulting from constantly focusing the eye on the monitor for prolonged period of time.

The most common symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome are headache, neck pain, blurred vision, redness of the eyes, irritated eyes, dry eyes, parallax vision, vertigo, focusing problem etc.  if the lighting condition of your workplace is not correct then these symptoms may be aggravated. Another very common but commonly overlooked cause is air moving past the eyes. This might happen if one is seated right under the air conditioner duct or just facing a fan. Interestingly spending as little as three hours a day in front of a computer might result in CVS if proper care is not taken.

Diagnosis

CVS is diagnosed by a comprehensive eye test. Patient history is taken to find out if the patient is having any difficulty especially while working on a computer. He or she is asked if they are experiencing any general health problem, or if they are taking any medication etc.

Then visual acuity measurements are done in order to find out which vision is affected.

Then the refraction method is used to find out the appropriate power that is necessary to compensate any refractive errors ( e.g. myopia, hypermetropia or astigmatism).

Testing the movement of the eyes and co-ordination is the final test. This test is done to find out if there are any errors in focusing or coordinated movement of both the eyes.

Treatment

First the cause has to be removed. Proper posture, viewing angle and proper lighting of the room has to be looked at first. We have already discussed this above in this article. Apart from those, regular eye examination by a qualified ophthalmologist is all that is required.

 

Depression and Insomnia

Another recent finding says that over use of computer and spending long hours on the internet can cause depression and insomnia. In a survey conducted for three years on 25,000 workers, by Chiba University in Japan, showed that many complained of feeling anxious, depressed and not being able to sleep peacefully at night.

Chief researcher Dr. Tetsuya Nakazawa said that the use of computers should be limited to less than five hours a day. He published the results in American Journal of Industrial Medicine which showed that one in four staff spent over five hours a day on their terminal.

This is also partially because of the fact that people who spend long hours online on social networking sites and chat rooms tend to have a rather unfulfilled social life in reality. The time they spend online makes them more lonely and further reduces their time for social interactions. Spending long hours online also hampers their sleep cycle and they suffer from insomnia

Treatment

The treatment for depression is very simple. Reduction in the use of computer. The patient also has to stop using the computer two hours before he or she goes to bed. Meeting with people in the real world and involvement in physical exercise, games and sports work wonderfully. Eating a healthy balanced diet rich in fibers with lots of fluid intake also helps. Meditation is yet another powerful healer.

 

Summary

From what we discussed above it is clear that there are many health risks associated with the prolonged use of a computer. But it is also obvious that using the computer properly by observing the rules and guidelines outlined above the risk can be reduced to a great extent.

I would like to hear your views about the problems you face during the use of a computer. Please use the comments section below to let us know.

If you think that this post can help any of your friend or relative who is an avid computer used please don’t hesitate to share it with him or her by using the social media buttons on the left.

 

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Priyankar

Priyankar Mukherjee is a freelancer turned entrepreneur who is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and bloggers. He is running his own web design and development company and also a crowdsourcing platform www.shopfordesigns.com

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