Tips for Avoiding Stress and Strain While Working at Your Computer
Did you know that working at a computer for long periods of time can cause strain to your body? Spending significant amounts of time on the computer is normal in today’s world, though.
Working adults and school children use computers for extended periods every day, and they may be putting their health at risk by engaging in some unhealthy habits. This is serious: A report published in 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found an association between sitting for long periods and a greater risk for deleterious health outcomes — even for those who engaged in regular exercise!
Thankfully, it is possible to develop healthier habits that reduce the risk of spinal stress and strain.
Here are some practical tips you can start right away to help incorporate healthy habits at work.
Set Correct Chair Height
While sitting at the computer, your forearms should be positioned at a right angle to the upper arms, which should hang comfortably at the side of your body. Adjust your chair height to ensure this 90-degree angle, but also consider the angle of your wrists — they should be kept straight while using your computer’s keyboard.
Find the Perfect Backrest Position
Your goal should be a relaxed spine — too much tension can cause fatigue over time. Therefore, you should adjust the backrest of your chair so it gives solid support to your lumbar spine.
Use a Footrest
Placing a footrest under your desk allows you to lean back into your chair, which prevents tension in the mid to upper back. This is crucial because the nerves that control your heart, lung and stomach function are located in this area.
Tilt for Proper Knee Placement
Where are your knees located in relation to your hips as you sit? Ideally, they should be level or slightly higher than the hips. Adjusting the tilt of your chair can help you prevent swelling in the feet and calves. It can also reduce pressure on your sciatic nerves.
Reduce the Glare
According to research from the BMJ Open Ophthalmology Journal, digital eye strain is prevalent in potentially more than half of all computer users, and it can lead to blurred vision and headaches in addition to neck and shoulder pain. Be sure to use a glare-reducing screen, and reduce the number of bright lights behind or in front of you. Additionally, consider how sunlight interacts with — and reflects from — your monitor at certain times of day. You may need to close your blinds or draw your curtains to eliminate the glare.
Mind Your Eye Level
It is quite common for people to keep their screens too low. Ideally, your eye level should be at the top or within the top half of your screen, so use some old telephone books or a monitor stand to prop yours up, if needed.
Use a Copy Stand
Keeping a vertical copy stand directly beside your screen reduces the amount of travel — and associated tension — your neck and eyes experience.
Consider Proper Mouse Placement
You might not think that the simple act of reaching for your mouse would lead to strain or injury, but repeatedly reaching can lead to subluxation! Your mouse should be located in an easy-to-reach spot, right next to your keyboard. If you’re using a keyboard tray that does not fit the mouse, consider an extension.
Keeping Your Distance
How far should your wrists be from the screen? About 15 inches. That’s because if they are any farther away, you’ll be tempted to lean in, which can lead to neck and back strain. You should also maintain a distance of about 18-24 inches from your eye to the top of the screen.
Get Up and Take Mini-Breaks
Take time to get up and move around every few hours to give yourself a mental and physical break. Even just 5min. every 2-3 hours can help with creativity and focus. Periodic breaks also can help avoid stress and help employees produce more quality work.
Consider a Stand-Up Desk
A stand-up desk can help employees avoid sitting to much. Many versions today are adjustable allowing you to alternate between sitting and standing. Studies have shown using a stand-up desk has helped decrease pain associated with prolonged sitting.
Don’t Skip Regular Chiropractic Checkups
Finally, the best advice I can give you if you work with computers regularly is to ensure good back and neck health with regular spinal checkups. If you are seen regularly, you can catch problems before they become serious. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!