Use Computers Properly to Avoid Back Pain and Repetitive Strain Injuries
Managing pain at work is a job in itself. While work is a great distraction, the added stress and physical demands can cause or aggravate chronic pain.
As we spend more of our work and leisure time on computers, repetitive strain (or stress) injuries (RSI) are on the rise.
RSI is caused by the motions that are repeated again and again while typing or browsing the Internet for long periods of time, particularly if the user has poor posture and doesn’t change position for several hours.
Proper ergonomics—the science of designing the workplace environment to fit the user—can prevent repetitive strain injuries.
Revealed in pain in the shoulders, hands, neck, or arms, RSI can also be caused by repetitive movements similar to assembly line work. These types of soft tissue injuries are diagnosed as nerve spasms, trigger finger, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and bursitis.
Those with RSI experience constant pain in the hands, elbows, shoulders, neck, and the back, and sometimes cramps, tingling, and numbness in the hands. Hand movements may become clumsy and fine motor tasks increasingly difficult.
In 2002, employers reported a total of 487,900 lost workdays due to work-related RSIs, nearly 50 percent of all lost work days. And of course, people who work in pain may not be as productive as those who are pain free.
- Computer-related RSIs are caused by several factors:
- Stress—creating tension in the neck and shoulders
- Repetitive movements—improper keyboarding and mouse use
- Force—typing too hard or holding the mouse too tight
- Poor posture—leaning forward or reaching for the mouse
- Unchanging positions—sitting too long without a break
If you spend a lot of time at a computer, at home or work, consider these changes to improve your ergonomic design.
- Adjust your chair so you sit with feet flat on floor or on a foot rest. Knees should be bent at 90 degrees and legs uncrossed.
- Your desk should be at a height so that your elbows form an ‘L’ and you don’t have to reach for the mouse or keyboard. Consider a keyboard tray support if needed.
- Shoulders should be relaxed.
- Place the monitor at eye level, so your neck and head are in a neutral position. Arrange it so there is no glare on the screen.
- With your back against the back of your chair, place the monitor an arm’s length away from you, so that you don’t have to lean forward to read.
- Move your legs often. Sitting with the legs immobile for long periods of time can lead to swelling and potentially, blood clots.
- Be sure that your mouse isn’t forcing you to bend or stretch your wrist, hand or fingers.
If you use a laptop, make sure that you are not leaning forward, with your shoulders hunched, putting stress on your forearms and wrists. This can lead to neck strain. Lower your risk by using a separate monitor, docking station, and keyboard with your laptop.
Change posture and activities often. Take a break, stretch, walk around the office, or do something else for a while.
If you have a coffee break or lunch hour, get out and walk, or do some stretching exercises.
Here are some general tips for alleviating back pain while at work.
- Make sure your seat is the proper height from the floor and try to maintain a good posture while sitting. Do not sit hunched over your desk. It is important to keep your neck in alignment with your back.
- It may be helpful to place a small stool at the foot of your chair. When you are feeling back strain, place your feet on the stool to ease the strain.
- Place your hands on the sides of your chair with your weight resting on your arms for a few minutes. This will take the pressure off your back.
- When you lift, make sure you bend from the knees and not your back. Bending at the knees puts most of the strain on your legs rather than your back.
For more information on pain management at work, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in Franklin, MA.