As more and more people are using computers at home and in the workplace, more and more people are suffering from neck pain, backaches, headaches, eyestrain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and many other repetitive stress injuries to the spine. As a chiropractor, the percentage of my patients suffering from structural problems related to the physical stress of sitting incorrectly, or for too long in front of their computers is on the rise. If you work at a desk all day, with or without a computer, here are some pre-emptive ways to lower your risk of injury:
People who do computer work are at risk for a host of problems with pain and disability in their musculoskeletal system. Research about preventing and treating these types of work injuries is ongoing, with the hope of eliminating some of the costs associated with missed work.
Computer-related injuries are usually caused by poor sitting postures and improper workspace arrangement. Typical injuries include
• POSTERIOR CERVICAL DORSAL SYNDROME ("COMPUTER BACK")
• "MOUSE SHOULDER"
• CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
• TENNIS ELBOW
• LUMBAR SPRAINS AND STRAINS
• DISC INJURIES
• RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRESS AND JOB PERFORMANCE
• WHEN TO GET ADDITIONAL HELP
• EIGHT BASIC STEPS FOR PREVENTING COMMON COMPUTER-RELATED INJURIES
• 6 WAYS TO PREVENT HEADACHES WITH REGULAR COMPUTER USE
• COMPUTER ERGONOMICS FOR CHILDREN
POSTERIOR CERVICAL DORSAL SYNDROME ("COMPUTER BACK")
A very common postural syndrome in modern society involves excessive rearward curving of your lower, middle, and upper back; forward drawn head; rounded shoulders; and excessive forward curving of your upper neck. This syndrome has been given several names including sterno-symphyseal syndrome, posterior cervical-dorsal syndrome, or more commonly, computer back or student syndrome. It is a natural result of prolonged sitting work, especially with computers. These postural defects in turn can cause
• excessive muscle tension in your neck, chest, shoulders, arms and forearms, back, abdomen, hips, and thighs and legs
• strains and trigger points the above muscles
• joint dysfunction and sprains in your neck, back, and ribs
• increased loading on the intervertebral discs of your spine
• impaired function of your breathing muscle (your diaphragm), causing the muscles lifting your upper ribs and shoulders to become overactive and subject to problems
To help prevent computer back try adopting the postural relief position every 20 minutes.
"Mouse shoulder" (as good a name as any) is a syndrome arising from prolonged elevation and bracing of the shoulder to accommodate an inappropriately positioned mouse, or performing short range movements of the mouse, or (usually) both. This syndrome results in severe shoulder and shoulder blade muscle spasm (in the trapezius, deltoid, and teres muscles) and trigger points with referred pain in the arm.
If left untreated, this problem can develop into a much more serious rotator cuff injury.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is most often caused by pressure on the median nerve just above the wrist. The Carpal Tunnel is named for the area of your wrist containing the carpal bones (shown as pale yellow), the transverse carpal ligament (blue), and the median nerve (yellow) and the tendons (red) controlling finger and hand movement. Pressure on the median nerve may occur due to injury (for example, a sudden bending back of the wrist) or sustained pressure from activities like typing/keypunching, chopping, hammering or pushing.
CTS and related strain injuries have a range of similar symptoms. Some warning signs are pain (which can be severe), numbness, a tingling or burning sensation, and weakness or loss of grip strength. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your chiropractor as soon as possible. The earlier CTS is treated, the easier and quicker the recovery.
There are many ways to treat CTS depending on the individual severity and other considerations. In most cases, however, chiropractic adjustment of the affected wrist area (and perhaps spinal adjustments) can be very effective.
Some physicians might prescribe medications and/or inject cortico-steroids which many temporarily alleviate pain and swelling, but does not often treat the actual problem, the symptoms usually return. Or, your doctor might recommend surgery especially in extreme cases. However, surgery may lead to scarring of the transverse ligament. The scars can further irritate the median nerve causing the symptoms to reoccur. Surgery may also weaken the ligament and should only be considered if conservative treatment fails to correct the problem.
Am I at Risk?
CTS have become one of the most significant medical problems affecting workers at the turn of the century. The U.S. Dept. of Labor reports that carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion disorders now account for over 60 percent of all workplace injuries. Computer operators have joined assembly line workers, meat packers, building tradesmen, cashiers, and athletes as victims of repetitive strain injuries causing these disorders to be dubbed "the Number One occupational hazard of the 1990's".
CTS is becoming one of the most widespread of occupational hazards. It can be painful and debilitating. Early treatment can lead to a quicker and easier recovery. Chiropractic treatment is proven to be one of the most effective methods of treatment. Regardless of the treatment, full recovery will only come about by avoiding stressful situations and changing work habits.
Classic tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is another type of RSI. It is a tendonitis affecting the common extensor tendon at the lateral (outside) area of the elbow. The common extensor tendon connects muscles which bend your hand and fingers backward with your arm bone, the humerus. Tennis elbow is a very common cause of elbow and forearm pain. It can cause mild to severe pain in the lateral aspect of the elbow region and may be aggravated by grasping and excessive finger motions. The pain may also radiate up the arm or down into the forearm.
For more information, see the article on tennis elbow.
LUMBAR SPRAINS AND STRAINS
Lumbar sprains and strains are common in office workers for three main reasons, all related to prolonged and faulty sitting postures:
• sitting greatly increases the loading on the spine
• muscles of the abdomen and low back weaken
• hip flexor muscles tighten and accentuate the lumbar curve
All of the above cause increased fatigue to the muscles and ligaments supporting the low back and can eventually lead to tissue injury and spinal joint dysfunction. Typical symptoms include
• muscle spasm and pain
• pain on movement
• involvement of other muscles as a reaction
• referred pain to buttocks and thighs or up the spine
Increased loading on the spine due to prolonged and faulty sitting postures may cause sprains of the outer (annular) fibers of the intervertebral disc. In more advanced cases the soft inner material (nucleus) of the disc may protrude into or even through the annular fibers of the disc, resulting in a herniated disc.
Although people often think disc herniated discs are caused by a single traumatic event, they are usually commonly the product of slow mechanical degeneration (however, they often appear following a traumatic event, which may appear trivial). Herniated discs can cause
• leg pain and paresthesias down to the foot, with or without back pain
• walking difficulties
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRESS AND JOB PERFORMANCE
Stress can be either helpful or harmful to job performance, depending upon its level. When stress is absent, it limits job challenges and performance becomes low. As stress increases gradually, job performance also tends to increase, because stress helps a person to gather and use resources to meet job requirements.
Constructive stress inculcates encouragement among employees and helps them to tackle various job challenges. Eventually, a time comes when stress reaches its maximum saturation point that corresponds approximately to the employee's day to day performance capability. Beyond this point, stress shows no signs of improvement in job performance.
Finally, if stress is too high, it turns into a damaging force. Job performance begins to decline at the same point because excessive stress interferes with performance. An employee loses the ability to cope, fails to make a decision and displays inconsistent behavior.
If stress continues to increase even further it reaches a breaking point. At this breaking stage, an employee is very upset and mentally devastated. Soon he/she completely breaks down. Performance becomes zero, no longer feels like working for their employer, absenteeism increases, eventually resulting into quitting of a job or getting fired.
Stress should not be very high or too low. It must be within the range and limits of employee's capacity to tolerate and his performance level. A controlled stress which is within limits is always beneficial and productive than an uncontrolled one.
Among members of an organization always create a stress free, healthy, friendly and productive environment in a workplace.
Understanding emotional aspect of a human factor also plays a key role in determining the success prospect of an organization. No matter how intelligent a work force is, it is emotions and not logic that drives them to give their best.
“Whatever increases, decreases, limits or extends the body’s power of action; an increase, decreases, limits or extends the mind’s power of action.
And whatever increases, decreases, limits or extends the mind’s power of action; also increases, decreases, limits or extends the body’s power of action” - Spinoza
WHEN TO GET ADDITIONAL HELP
You should seek help for
• problems different than your "usual" ones
• persistent (lasting more than 2-3 days) or worsening symptoms
• symptoms that disrupt your work or home life
• Which Techniques Ease Pain from Computer Work Injury?
• Kelly Johnson June 20, 2013 Back Pain News, Chiropractic News, Neck Pain No comments
• Spread the word about chiropractic: Auto Chiropractic Social Media Service
EIGHT BASIC STEPS FOR PREVENTING COMMON COMPUTER-RELATED INJURIES
The key to preventing common computer-related injuries is to identify and remove the abnormal stresses acting on your body while you work. Eight ways to do this are
1. Adopt proper sitting posture by changing the arrangement of your desk, chair, and computer screen and keyboard. See Ergonomics at Work and Microsoft's Healthy Computer Guide. Check yourself to ensure you maintain proper posture throughout the day. A good idea is to have someone else watch your posture while you work.
2. Support easily compromised areas of the body. A lumbar support pillow and wrist supports for your keyboard and mouse can prevent many injuries.
3. Don't sit too long at your desk, get up and move around at least every half-hour. Also, try adopting the postural relief position every 20 minutes.
4. Recognize that the psychological stress of your work could be altering your posture. Slumped shoulders and shoulders pulled upward are common self-defense postures.
5. Improve your overall fitness level to make your muscles strong and flexible so that they do not fatigue as quickly. Create a simple, balanced exercise program that you will continue, for example, brisk walking at lunch.
6. Stretch and relax your tight (or overactive) muscles and strengthen and tone up your weak (or underactive) muscles. Periodically perform these simple stretches.
7. Take a few minutes to massage your muscles to help work out the kinks. Use gentle kneading motions and strokes towards the heart.
8. At the end of your long day, relax your muscles in a warm bath or shower. You deserve it!
6 WAYS to PREVENT HEADACHES with REGULAR COMPUTER USE
Here are 6 ways to prevent computer related headaches.
1. Place the monitor in front of you. Keeping the monitor off-centre results in neck and shoulder pains and you have to twist your body to see the screen. It also gives stress to your eyes resulting in headaches.
2. Place the monitor arm’s length away from your body when you sit back in your chair. Sitting too close or too far from the computer screen can strain your eyes resulting in headaches.
3. Lower the monitor or raise your chair to keep the screen in level with your eyes.
4. Increase the font size of your text to about two or three times the size of the smallest text that you can read.
5. Adjust the monitor so that the brightness of the monitor is equal to the brightness present behind the monitor. Check that your workplace has enough lighting. Improper lighting can cause headaches.
6. Place the monitor in such a way so that there is no glare on the screen, as glare can cause eyestrain, discomfort and headaches. If you cannot avoid glare, use anti-glare screen.
AVOID EYE STRAIN AND HEADACHES BY:
• Pointing your monitor away from windows and blinds to cut down on bright outside light.
• Modifying overhead light if it causes a glare on your screen.
• Frequently adjusting your monitor resolution settings to accommodate with changing light conditions.
• Making sure that the characters on your screen are easy to read. Ergonomists recommend screens that provide at least a .25 dot-pitch.
• Paying attention to how your eyes feel at the end of the day. If they feel strained or you have frequent headaches, consider using Adobe Type Manager to make the type on your screen easier to read.
• Last but not least, if you are suffering from computer injuries or other nonspecific pain, see your chiropractor for an evaluation, adjustment, and a course of treatment to restore balance to your body.
MAKE A CHANGE IN YOUR WORKPLACE.
MAKE A CHANGE IN YOUR HEALTH.