Today, I found a very interesting new terminology “mouse potato”, a term used for a person who sits at his computer for extended lengths of time. But we are helpless sometimes, with advances in technology and dependency on information technology; pen-paper had moved to backseat, we all are bound to hook to computer screens for substantial period of whole day. Computer has become a common tool which is omnipresent, be it schools, colleges, universities, home and workplaces.
However, prolonged use (in particular those that look at a computer for more than three hours a day)of computers can be taxing to health. The level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of computer use. Such problems can be made worse by poor workstation design, bad posture and long periods of sitting.
Health Problems Due to Prolonged Use of Computers
- Computer vision syndrome
- Many people who spend extended period of time in front of glare screens can experience a complex of eye and vision problems, collectively termed as computer vision syndrome“.
- You may feel eye discomfort ,eye fatigue, redness , blurred vision, double vision, itching, heaviness and tiredness.
- Dry eyes – due to decreased frequency of blinking and an increased rate of tear evaporation.
- Even the presence of minor vision defect in eye coördination and eye focusing can adversely affect your performance and output at a computer.
- Muscle fatigue ,Neck or shoulder pain
- Long sitting sessions may lead to reduced circulation of blood to muscles tendons and ligaments which may lead to muscle strain, stiffness, pain and stress
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is actually a Repetitive Strain Injury . It is associated with the swelling of small blood vessels, usually in the hands or wrists. The swelling can put pressure on the nerves, hampering its role and can cause numbness, pain, and a loss of manual dexterity.Though not substantially proven, however, sitting at keyboards for long hours has been associated with the probability of this syndrome.
- Lack of Physical activity
Inactivity and the long time sitting, can lead to health problems and obesity
- Decreased performance and work output
Precautions to be taken to prevent or at least Decrease the symptoms
- Ease your eyes: Appropriate adjustment and placement of the computer
- The appropriate viewing distance from the eyes to the computer screen of 20 to 28 inches is generally recommended.
- Antiglare Filters can be placed over the computer screen to reduce glare and reflections.
- Use fonts and icon sizes that are easy for you to view and read. Avoid using small fonts and icon sizes as it can cause eye strain.
- Don’t press keyboard buttons too hard.
- Adjust the height of the monitor so that the top of the monitor is just below your eye level so that you need not too look too down slightly when viewing the screen.
- Screen brightness and contrast should be adjusted to give balance with room lighting and maximum visibility.
- Tilt screen slightly back – between 10 to 15 degrees, depending on the person’s particular preference.
- Regular screen cleaning Electrostatic charges develop around the screen surface of computer which can attract dust or dirt on computer screen. Daily cleaning of computer screens is recommended as these charges may be related to the development of skin rash or eye irritation in some very sensitive people and decrease in the visibility too.
- Proper workplace design and lighting control
Ergonomics is a field of study that attempts to reduce strain, fatigue, and injuries by improving product design and workspace arrangement to provide a comfortable, relaxed posture.
- Office furniture should be ergonomically designed.
- Adjustable shades, curtains or blinds should be used to effectively control light levels throughout the day.
- Avoid facing an unshaded window since the difference in brightness between the screen and the area behind it may be extremely stressful and uncomfortable.
- Avoid sitting with back to an unshaded window in order to avoid since annoying shadows on the computer screen.
- Adjust computer and keyboard to your body as placement of screen too high or too low level to your field of view can strain your eyes.
- Choose an adjustable chair which has a supportive head and backrest, and adequate lumbar support.
- Height of the chair should be such that you are able to rest your feet on floor or foot rest
- Regular professional eye care
- Wear correct glasses
- You can use anti-reflective coating glasses.
- Use correctly prescribed glasses.
- If you are having other uncorrected vision problems then you should make a periodic follow up .
- Sometimes, regular eyeglasses or contact lenses may not be adequate for computer work. Special lens designs, lens powers or lens tints or coatings may help to maximize visual abilities and comfort.
- Maintain Good Posture
- Sitting tiling forward in a seat can put extra pressure on your spine as the hip angle is reduced, one should sit with the spine erect against the back of the chair. Your shoulders should be relaxed.
- Your forearm should be parallel to the floor , the elbows should be along the sides of your body and the wrists should be same plane as your forearm
- If you’re using mouse,put it on user’s side close to your body
- Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your lower legs should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Place the feet firmly on the floor or footrest and legs with sufficient clearance..
- Exercises at computer
- Eye exercises
- Blinking is the best exercise for eyes, your eyes should blink 25 times in a minute. Blink the eyes as frequently as possible for ten times. Close eyes for 10 to 15 seconds every 5 minutes. This will relax your eyes and decrease the dry eye syndrome.
- After staring for 20 min, look away
and focus on an object that is 20 feet away for 20 s (American Optometric Association, 2013).
- Palming – Rub your palms together till they feel warm. Then place them on your eyes and hold the position till your palm feels warm.
- Sideways & Rotation – Move your eyes slowly from side to side and then all the way around in a circle and repeat both exercises about 20 times..
- Yoga asans: Sarvangna Asanaor the shoulder stand and Bhramari Pranayama are beneficial for eyes.
- Hand stretching
- Long hours at a keyboard can cause a Carpal tunnel syndrome, like regular blinking, hands should be stretched too in between. Try pulling your fingers over the back of the top of your wrist and holding for about 10 seconds.
- Finger Fan: Spread your fingers as far apart as possible, hold, then clench fists, then release.
- During breaks, lean back in the chair, take deep breaths, squeeze the shoulder blades together, stretch the limbs and twist the wrist gently.
- Arm Relaxation: Drop your arms and hands to your sides. Gently shake them for a few seconds.
- Arm Rotation: Raise your arms in front of your body. Rotate arms so palms face up, then rotate so backs of hands face each other.
- Body stretching
At the very least get up from the computer every hour and stretch and move around.
Common Exercises to be Done While Working on Computer
- Neck/Shoulders exercise
- Neck rotation: Rotate your head slowly as far as comfortable to the right, then left.
- Shoulder Rotation: Circle your shoulders, in front and then reverse directions.
- Head Side to Side: Touch your left ear to left shoulder and vice versa by bending neck. Bend your neck so left ear approaches.
- Chin Tuck: move down your head and slide your chin inward, without bending your neck up or down.
- Shrug your shoulders: Slowly raise your shoulders toward ears and hold for a few seconds. Gradually bring shoulders down and relax.
- Back exercises
- Shoulder Squeeze: Raise your arms in front of body, with elbows bent and thumbs up. Pull elbows back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold for a few seconds then release.
- Feet exercises
- Toe Curl: Flex toes up, then curl toes under. Release.
- Foot Rotation: Circle foot slowly from the ankle, then reverse.
Seek medical advice
Symptoms of fatigue usually go away overnight. Continuous presence of pain, numbness and tingling, stiffness or cramping and inability to hold objects or loss of grip may indicate a more serious problem. You should seek medical advice.