It’s hard not to marvel at the masterful engineering of the human body. But the human body is meant to move and extensive time spent at a computer desk, whether standing or sitting, can potentially cause muscular skeletal pain and a host of repetitive strain injuries. Some symptoms include stiff neck, sore shoulders, numbness in hands or fingers, eye-strain, headaches, and low back pain.
Here are some tips to avoid or manage discomfort or pain caused by excessive computer use.
1. PROPER WORKSTATION SET UP.
For those of you who have a sit down desk, start with a comfortable chair that supports the curve of your back and allows you to sit upright. No slouching.
Your chair should be close to the desk and adjusted to allow your knees and hips to be close to a 90 degree angle. Elbows should be closer to 100 degrees or slightly lower. Wrists should be neutral or straight, without having to extend or flex. Feet flat on the ground (use a box or book placed under your desk if your legs are shorter).
For standup desk users, elbows should also fall slightly below elbow height, back should be straight and feet firmly on the ground.
For both, shoulders relaxed!!! Take a deep breath, exhale and let your shoulders fall down. Don’t let them creep back up to your ears.
Top of computer screen should be slightly lower than eye level and straight in front of you about arms length. For the sake of your neck, don’t position the screen to one side!
Mouse should be positioned close to the keyboard and operate using your whole arm rather than just your wrist.
Play with the brightness of the screen to find a comfortable level. Too bright or too dim causes unnecessary eye strain. Tilt the monitor slightly downward to avoid glare from other light sources.
* If you haven’t already, consider a stand up desk or alternating between the two. Standing up at your desk fires more muscle groups and provides better movement for your whole body. Some claim it helps with inspiration and creativity. History tells us Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Leonardo DaVinci, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Jefferson and many others preferred standing in front of their desks!
1. TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS
Every 45 minutes or so break the cycle. Get up and walk around. Have a glass of water. Just small moments of alternate movement are super beneficial. If you’re feeling really ambitious do some sit-ups or push-ups!!
2. DO SIMPLE STRETCHES RIGHT AT YOUR WORKSTATION
There are six ranges of motion of the neck. Spend 10-15 seconds with each. Neck flexion CHIN TO CHEST STRETCH, neck extension TILT HEAD BACK, right and left lateral flexion EAR TO SHOULDER ON BOTH SIDES, right and left rotation CHIN TO SHOULDER ON BOTH SIDES
Shoulder Shrugs. Head straight ahead. Shrug your shoulders to your ears and slowly roll back (feel your pecs stretch). Repeat 10 or so times.
Hip Flexor and Iliopsoas stretch. Kneel on the floor, bring one leg up with foot on the ground and lean forward with your arms out in front of you. Both sides.
Pectorals (chest muscle stretch). Stand in front of a doorway and with your arm outstretched grab the door and lean your body forward. Both sides.
Or, put your hands on the back of your head and pull both elbows back like wings.
Getting the proper amount of oxygen affects your entire body. It revitalizes cells and organs, energizes, improves concentration and focus, and relieves anxiety and stress.
An easy test to see if you are breathing properly:
Stand up and place your hands just below the ribs on your abdomen. Breathe in deeply. If your abdomen rises and your chest stays relatively flat you are breathing properly. If your chest rises and your abdomen stays relatively flat you are breathing too much through the chest and not the gut.
Practice breathing from the belly. It’s simple but not enough of us actually do it!!!