To the outside observer, nothing seems safer than computer work. We associate work-related injuries with jobs that require manual labor, driving and construction. But computers-related injuries are becoming more common as more of us are working in front of the screen for extended periods of time. What can be done to prevent these injuries?
The most common injuries reported involve the hands and wrists. Many computer users have heard of “repetitive strain injury” (RSI) and associate it with symptoms that affect the hands and wrists, but most of what is believed to be RSI is actually one of many other injuries. But whatever the actual diagnosis, this family of injuries can often be prevented.
Pay attention to the placement of your keyboard to see how it works with your hand position. Your hands should reach comfortably to your keyboard without stretching too much. Check the height of your keyboard; your wrists should be held slightly above your desk and keyboard, and having your keyboard too high can make this difficult. Further, most users hold their wrists together too closely. Your hands should form a ninety-degree angle even if this means that your fingers are not completely flush with the home row.
But most importantly, try to put your mouse in a place that minimizes the distance your hand has to travel between the mouse and the keyboard. Studies have shown that the most common wrist injuries develop primarily from moving one’s hand back and forth. Another tip is to learn the keyboard shortcuts for your most common tasks. These shortcuts both reduce strain on your wrist and allow you to work more quickly.
Eye strain affects many who work on computers. While some eye strain may be unavoidable, there are steps you can take to reduce the symptoms. Most offices are simply too bright; if you are able, close the blinds or turn off half of the lights. If your computer is in front of a white surface, painting it or putting something dark behind your monitor can reduce strain on your eyes. And if you are still using a CRT monitor, upgrade to an LCD screen. The flicker of CRTs, even if it is imperceptible, increases the strain on your eyes.
Most remaining computer injuries result from poor posture and not taking enough breaks. Sit with a straight back and keep your monitor at a comfortable height to avoid straining your neck. Even if your posture is perfect, make sure to take a five-minute break at least once an hour. By moving your muscles, returning blood flow to your legs and giving yourself a mental break, studies have shown that you will be more productive when you return.
If you live in orange county and have hurt your hand, wrist or elbow at work, make sure to seek professional medical help from a qualified hand doctor. I recently saw Dr. Knight at The Hand and Wrist Institute and he was able to help. He performs virtual consultations if you aren’t located in the area. Website page for Santa Ana residents – handsurgeonorangecounty.com/hand-doctor-santa-ana/