Avoid back pain caused by computer usage

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How you use your computer can be a major cause of back, neck and shoulder pain. Poor posture while sitting at the computer, lack of regular breaks and exercise all contribute to the problem.

Here's how to minimise the damage.

  • Always sit in a good-quality, adjustable and comfortable office chair. Pull your chair close to the desk and adjust the seat height so that your elbows, hips and knees are bent at approximately 90 degrees. Your forearms should be parallel to or sloping down toward the desktop. Your feet should rest flat on the floor — use a footrest if necessary.

  • Adjust the backrest of your chair to support the curve in your lower back and to help keep you upright when typing. Relax your shoulders.

  • Sit straight and position your computer screen at a comfortable viewing distance, generally at arm's length. Keep the top of the screen below eye level and directly in front of you. Don't use your screen positioned to one side.

  • Don't work from documents flat on the desk. Use a document holder set close to the screen at the same distance from your eyes, or prop your work on a folder between the keyboard and screen.

  • Ensure your screen is easy to see. Eliminate reflections by adjusting and tilting the screen and ensure there are no light sources directly behind it. Adjust the brightness control to suit.

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  • Don't use a notebook computer for extended periods. If this is unavoidable, then check the top of the screen is below eye level, and plug in a mouse and a normal-size keyboard.

  • Limit continuous computer use and take a break every 30 minutes to do some neck, wrist and shoulder stretches. Focus on a distant point to give your eyes a break. Get up and walk around every hour. Change your tasks regularly to alter the load on your body.

  • Learn to touch type so you don't have to bend your head forward searching for the keys. Alternate between mouse and keyboard by varying your inputting tasks. Learn the function keys and short cuts to reduce the amount of mouse use.

  • Maintain your general fitness. Keep yourself strong, active and flexible with activities such as yoga and Pilates. Manage the stresses of work and study with a balance of exercise, relaxation and other stress management approaches.

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