Many patients who participate in the pain program work in offices and use computers on a daily basis. If you are one of these patients, correctly setting up your computer work area so that you are comfortable is very important in reducing or preventing the following:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Wrist pain
- Back pain
- Repetitive strain injury
Most larger companies are very “ergonomically aware” of correctly setting up work areas. If you are fortunate enough to work for such a company, take advantage of the services it offers. Even if your company does not offer ergonomic services, you can set up your own office so it is comfortable for you to work in.
Adjusting your chair
The best type of chair for office work is a “secretarial” chair ( no arms) that has four types of adjustments:
- Seat height
- Seat angle
- Back height
- Back angle
Use the following guidelines when adjusting your chair:
- Adjust the seat height so that your knees are bent at an angle of slightly over 90 degrees and that your feet are comfortable flat on the floor.
- Don’t cross your legs while working. That can contrict blood flow, causing tingling and making your legs ” go to sleep.”
- Adjust the seat angle of your chair so that there is not a great deal of pressure on the part of your upper leg just above the knee.
- Try to avoid chair with arms. They put extra pressure on your arms, and also position them at an unnatural angle if you tend to rest your arms on them.
- You may need further lower back support than your chair provides. Check with your physician or physical therapist for recommendations of back support pillows that best suit your needs.
Adjusting the Monitor Height and Distance
Now that your chair is comfortable, move it to your desk and sit down. You’re not going to adjust the height of your monitor so less stress is placed on your neck and shoulders.
- Sit comfortably on your chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Hold your head up so that you are looking staright ahead, not down and not up. This is the position your head should maintain when looking at the monitor. Relax your shoulders and arms while you are doing this.
- Raise or lower the height of your monitor sot hat you are looking straight ahead–neither up nor down. The monitor height shold be approximately the same as your forehead height. You can raise the height of your monitor in a variety of ways:
- Telephone books
- Packages of paper
- Specially designed shelving
4. The viewing distance from your eyes to the monitor should be between 16 and 24 inches.
5. IF the angle of your monitor can be adjusted, try tilting it 10-20 degrees.
6. Once you hae set the height of your monitor, sit down and see whether the position is comfortable for you. If you feel stress on your neck, try raising, or lowering the monitor until iti s comfortable for you.
Glare is the biggest single cause of eyestrain when a computer is being used. It is relatively easy to avoid eyestrain by following these suggestions:
- Avoid setting your monitor in direct light ( sunlight, overhead light, etc.).
- Fluorescent overhead lights are the biggest culprits in causing glare. If possible, have the ones directly over your monitor turned off. You can always use a small portable light for desktop lighting if neccessary.
- Various types of glare screens are available at your local computer store. These can easily be attached directly to the front of your monitor.
- Eyeglasses for glare prevention are also available, even for people who do not wear perscription glasses. Check with your opthalmologist for suggestions.
- Something as simply as a large piece of cardboard that extends over the top of the monitor can help reduce glare.
- Avoid staring at the screen for too long a period of time. People who do this tend not to blink as often, this causes dry, hot eyes. Look away and focus on an object at a distance for a few seconds. Blink frequently to avoid dryness.
Adjusting the Keyboard Height
Carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury have become the fashionable ailments of the 1990s, thanks to keyboards and mouse devices. If you use a keyboard or mouse device, you are susceptible to these problems, but your chances of getting them can be greatly reduced by a proper keyboard height. Follow these guidelines when setting up your keyboard:
- The table height of your work surface should be between 23 and 28 inches ( floor to typing surface).
- Use a comfortable wrist pad in front of your keyboard, so that your wrists lie comfortably on the pad instead of the hard table top.
- Adjust the table height so that when you position your hands on the keyboard, your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle and your wrists are not bent up or down. Make sure that your wrists lie flat and that your fingers are stretched out in front.
Using a Mouse Pad
If you use a mouse devce, follow these suggestions to prevent wrist and shoulder stress:
- Use a mouse pad to protect your mouse and make it easier for you to operate the mouse.
- Try to move your entire arm when using a mouse. Many people make sharp, jerky movements with just their wrists when using a mouse. This puts added stress on the wrist.
- Take a ” mouse break” every now and then.
- Position the mouse pad next to the keyboard so you don’t have to reach too far for the mouse.
If you spend more than an hour a day at your computer, the best thing you can do for your body and mind is to take breaks. Most computers have bult-in clocks, and you can set an alarm that will tell you it’s time to take a berak. Determine how long you can work comfortably before you need to take a break. Then take that break!
Exercising is also a good way to reduce stress while you are working at a computer. Here are a few exercises that you can try:
Preform diaphragmatic breaking to help relax your boxy and to reduce stress and tension. Let your head relax along with your shoulders and arms.
- Look away from your monitor and focus on an object at a distance for a few seconds.
- Blink your eyes frequently to provide moisture.
- Move your eyes to the left, then to the right. Look up and then look down.
The following exercises can help reduce any tension or muscle strain that occurs while using your computer.
Shoulders and Neck
- Raise your shoulders toward your ears, and hold that slight tension for just a moment.
- Relax your shoulders and arms.
- Repeat this five times to prevent tightness in the shoulder and neck area.
- Make sure you are sitting up straight
- Put your hands behind your head so that your elbows point out to the side.
- Pull your shoulder blades toward each other until you feel a slight tightness in your upper back.
- Hold this for about 10 seconds. Then release and relax.
There are two exercises for the hands. Here is the first:
- Make a tight fist.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- Relax your hands.
And the second:
- Straighten your fingers out in front of you.
- Spread them as far apart from one another as you can.
- Hold the spread until you feel slight tension.
A good general exercise is just to get up from your desk and walk around, swining your arms and moving your body.