You don’t need a new companion—pain. You may not have any symptoms of pain now; however, hours at the computer every day will take a toll on your body. Musculoskeletal injuries consisting of hand and wrist injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), weakened backs, and shoulder problems are common among computer users. To avoid pain throughout our musculoskeletal system as a result of hours at the keyboard may require a few adjustments. Are you hunched over at the keyboard while concentrating on your work of the day? How often do you physically break away from typing? Are there things you can do to avoid chronic pain down the road?
Perhaps you think that these symptoms or injuries could never happen to you. Wrong again. A recent study in one country revealed that in the city of Delhi, and its surrounding satellite towns, 76 percent of their computer professionals had some type of musculoskeletal injuries. One orthopedic surgeon said he had experienced a 10 percent increase in these types of injuries. Two years prior, the doctor said that he only saw 20-30 people a month for musculoskeletal-type injuries. He now sees more than 300 people a month for such complaints. That should tell you something.
What does all of this mean for you and me? It means we are in trouble if we are spending lengthy stretches at the old keyboard. I worked in the field of ergonomics for a number of years. As such, I can tell you that many people because of incorrect posture and chair height, wrong hand-positioning at the keyboard, repetitive motion, and dietary deficiencies experience pain.
What can be done if you are experiencing any pain, numbing, or aching? If you are already experiencing these problems, it is wise to seek out a healthcare professional. A healthcare professional will be able to diagnose your specific problem. If you are not experiencing painful symptoms, or are experiencing very mild symptoms from time to time, here are some preventive-tips that may help:
- Don’t hunch over the keyboard. Hunching will put a strain on your back and shoulders resulting in fatigue muscles and poor circulation throughout your body.
- Relax your shoulders downward. Have you ever heard of the Alexander Technique? This technique teaches you how to position your body to reduce stress throughout the entire body.
- Wrists should be in a neutral position when typing (hands should not be held too high or low). Some people use a keyboard pad to rest their wrists on while typing. This might help initially with the fatigue of the wrist; however, some professionals now believe that the cushioning of the wrist does not allow proper circulation which down the road may result in more pain. Ideally, a keyboard at the level of your lap relieves some of the pressure.
- Your chair height should allow you to comfortably look at the screen without bending your head down or stretching your neck up. Again, a neutral position is always good.
- Take regular breaks to stretch your body. Remember, it is the prolonged periods of repetitive motion that you want to break up. Also, while grasping your fingertips, stretch your hands backwards with palms facing up. Gently stretch without creating pain.
- Exercise your eyes. What? Yes, looking away at a distant spot or corner of the wall or out the window at an object far away will help rest your eyes.
- Get adequate nutrition and exercise. Poor diet weakens our system’s ability to deal with physical stress. Overall exercise as well increases the body’s circulation.
- Many doctors recommend vitamin B6 for wrist strain and carpal tunnel. Biotin, another B vitamin, is also recommended. A great side benefit of Biotin is that is also enhances the beauty of your hair and skin. That’s a plus. Read my article about Biotin, Don’t Panic You’re Likely Not Going Bald.
- Some healthcare professionals recommend anti-inflammatory pills for short-term pain. Always check first with your personal physician.
- Do not rest your elbows on the desk or area you are typing at. Keep elbows relaxed naturally downward.
I hope these preventive-tips help you. Knowing what to do and doing it are two very different things. Recently, I have been experiencing carpal tunnel symptoms again. By applying the above tips a few years ago, my own wrist pain had subsided. I had also worn a light wrist support for a short period of time. However, we are creatures of forgetfulness! Bad habits do come back. Once again, the wrist support has gone back on and I am making the needed adjustments.
There are many articles on carpal tunnel syndrome, general wrist strain, and overall musculoskeletal complaints. Here is a link I found quite interesting relating to our subject of carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist strain.
So whether you are a software programmer, call-center or data entry operator, or just spend hours on the internet surfing—analyze your physical positioning. Today is the day to change bad habits. Not tomorrow. Hopefully your not hunching again! Make the necessary adjustments now, or pain will be your new companion tomorrow.