In this highly digital world, more and more people of all ages are spending extended periods of time on the computer. This is especially true for those who work on a computer for majority of the day. Most do not know that even though they are doing limited physical activity, they are still incurring trauma and damage to their body.
The most common injury for people who use computers frequently is Repetitive Strain Injury. As the name suggests, Repetitive Strain Injury is caused by repetitive movements which damage muscles and tendons. Symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury include aches, pain, and numbness in the neck, shoulder, back, wrist and elbow. The nerves in the hand compress which can cause tingling and weakness in the fingers.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the onset of RSI. Posture is the most critical component. Poor posture and slouching at the keyboard causes your spine and limbs to be put in positions that increase strain. Strain also occurs when your office has a poor workstation that does not fit your height. Reaching for a keyboard that is too high or low can create tension and contribute to the beginning of RSI. Your own technique of typing and computer use may aggravate the symptoms of RSI. Poor technique includes pounding on the keys to type, moving the mouse using your wrist or sitting for an extended period of time without changing positions.
To decrease your chances of developing RSI, there are a number of activities and routines you can do throughout the day – even if you work in an office.
Throughout your day you should include regular stretching every 20 to 60 minutes for your hands, shoulders, neck and trunk. There are computer programs, such as StretchWare, available that are designed to interrupt your work and remind you to stretch while giving instructions on which exercises or stretches to do.
Short walks around your work place are important to promote blood flow. Simple things such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator can improve your health by promoting small doses of exercise into day to day life.
Pay attention to your position
Avoid awkward positions and slouching. Remind yourself to sit all the way back in your seat, with your bottom at the very back of the chair. Your feet should be placed flat on the floor (or on a footrest) with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. When typing, do not bend your elbows at anything other than a 90 degree angle. If you have to in order to type, this means that your desk is too high or too low.
Early intervention is the best way to stop RSI.
Do you feel like the amount of time you spend in front of a computer is effecting your health?