Written by Dominique Vaughan

Technology has become an inseparable part of our lives and has become a necessity in almost every field of work.  With that said, it seems also as if there are consistent technological changes and advancements with the ultimate goal of making certain tasks completely rely on the use of technology.  Of course it makes our lives easier in some ways and maybe even less expensive, but it can be rather frustrating too.

Does your occupation require you to spend an extended amount of time in front of the computer…say over 4 hours a day?  If so, you could be at an increased risk of developing certain health problems including the following:

1. Musculoskeletal Problems

  • This includes areas of your body such as your back, neck, chest, arms, shoulders and feet.
  • Having sore muscles and complaints of the muscles being tired are common.
  • Numbness may occur in the arms and hands.
  • These troubles may occur because the posture you assume when using the computer is most likely incorrect.
  • You may find that you are sitting in an uncomfortable chair, or that you have a workstation that is not ergonomically correct for your body.

Tips to Consider

  • Find a correct height for both your desk and chair so that your computer screen is at eye level or slightly lower.
  • Sit with your back straight, legs at 90 degree angles to the floor, and feet resting flat on the floor.
  • ALWAYS take small breaks from your computer work to stretch your muscles, keep your blood flowing, and to rest your eyes.

2. Vision Problems

  • Computers are notorious for their bright lights, glare and flickering images that can cause strain on your eyes.
  • Finding that you constantly focusing on the screen with delays in blinking can result in drying out your eyes.

Tips to Consider

  • Make sure to adjust the brightness on your computer screen so that your eyes are not as strained. For example, if you are sitting in a
    dark room your computer screen will most likely be very bright and cause your eyes to strain, so to save your eyes you should lower the brightness.
  • Tilt your screen to decrease any glare.
  • Maintain a proper vision distance from the screen, and do not forget to blink.

3. Repetitive Stress Injuries

  • You may notice pain in your neck, shoulders, or really anywhere from the shoulders to your fingers related to repetitive muscle use.
  • Using the computer may cause you to use your muscles in an odd way that may cause increased stiffness, pain, or swelling in any of those areas.
  • One of the most common conditions related to repetitive use of your muscles when using the computer is carpal tunnel syndrome.

Tips to Consider

  • Place your mouse at a location next to the keyboard that will require you to move your whole arm to get to it rather that just twisting your wrist outward to reach it and move it.
  • Type gentle to decrease the stress put on each of your fingers.
  • Keep your wrists flexible when typing; avoid keeping them fixed in a certain position; keeping them flexible will avoid repetitive, strenuous stress.
  • Relax your arms and try to get a few stretches in when you are not typing or using your mouse.

4. Headaches

  • Headaches are common and may occur because of the increased muscle tension or from pain in the neck.
  • Any vision problems, or continued strain on the eyes can also cause headaches.

Tips to Consider

  • Attend regular eye exams in order to work toward correcting any vision problems.
  • Try your best to keep your neck straight in front of the computer and take breaks.

5. Obesity

  • Prolonged use of computers may lead to an overall sedentary lifestyle that lacks adequate physical activity and/or exercise.
  • In children prolonged use of computers, or electronics in general, is a major contributing factor to obesity.

Tips to Consider

  • Set limits for your children when they are using electronics.
  • Encourage outdoor play or a certain hobby that may take away time spent using electronics in order to lead a more active lifestyle.
  • As for adults, if your occupation requires computer use for up to 8 hours daily, you should not use a computer again when you get home…you should take a break and try to squeeze in some exercise until you go back to work.

6. Stress Disorders

  • Technology impacts our behaviors and emotions.
  • Prolonged use of computers may be accompanied by poor health and increased pressure placed on you in your workplace environment, which could both lead to stress.
  • The longer your stress occurs and is left untreated, the greater your chances are of contracting more serious health problems.
  • Stress can lead to decreased attention span, lack of concentration, dizziness and becoming easily burned out.

Tips to Consider

  • Promote your own health and prevent future health conditions or worsening the ones you already have by seeking treatment options for any stress that you may encounter.
  • Try things from yoga, to natural remedies, to medications as prescribed by a medical provider to combat your stress.

 

7. Laptop Use Injuries

  • Laptop injuries fall into a category of their own; there is a growing use of laptops that continues to cause more pain and strain among those individuals who use them.
  • Laptops are designed for short periods of use for those who do not have access to desktop computer.
  • In present day individuals choose to use laptops over desktops more frequently, due to convenience.
  • The problem is this: the screen and keyboard are very close together and there is really no right way to use a laptop because if you position the screen at the right height for your back and neck, it will cause you to have to lift your arms and shoulders too high to use it and vice versa…no matter what it will probably cause a problem for you somewhere.

Tips to Consider

  • Use a desktop computer that is set up ergonomically-correct for you as frequently as possible; only use a laptop intermittently.
  • Use separate laptop equipment, such as a wireless mouse or keyboard or a laptop stand.
  • As always, take frequent breaks.
  • If you have to take your laptop with you, make sure to carry it in a backpack or luggage; otherwise it may cause extra strain on your muscles from carrying it.

8. Sleeping Problems

  • Artificial lighting that is given off from computer screens can actually trick your brain and suppress its release of melatonin – the substance that assists your sleeping patterns.

Tips to Consider

  • Refrain from using a computer right before going to bed.
  • Resort to reading a book or something to that degree prior to going to bed, so falling asleep may come more easily for you.

9. Hearing Loss From Headphones

  • At times you may be required to use headphones in order to better concentrate on something or maybe because the background noise level is too high.
  • Frequently individuals will turn the volume up very high, when actually it would not even need to be close to that volume to hear the audio effectively.
  • Listening to audio with headphones on a consistent basis and using a volume that is too high can result in hearing impairment.

Tips to Consider

  • Keep the volume of your headphones down to a tolerable level, one that blocks out any extra noise but that is just loud enough for you to hear.
  • Listening to your headphones at approximately 80 decibels is recommended; if you are unaware of what that sound level is it can easily be researched.

10. Increased Risk of Blood Clots

  • Being immobile and not allowing your blood a chance to get moving around your extremities may cause it to pool, creating build-up of blood cells that will eventually clot (or stick together) due to not being able to be circulated around.
  • Blood clots can be life-threatening if they break away from where they are lodged and travel to another area, such as your lungs.
  • Sitting in one position for too long (especially if your legs are crossed), generally over a period of over 4 hours, can greatly increase your risk for this.

Tips to Consider

  • Avoid crossing your legs when using a computer for an extended period of time.
  • Take many breaks and stretch your legs to get the blood flowing to decrease the chance of it pooling in your extremities.
  • If you do have to sit for an extended period, make sure to bend and move your extremities even while sitting because any little bit will help.

 

Ultimately, it may sound as if using the computer is a bad thing…but most of us really cannot afford to avoid it regardless.  Technology seems to be everywhere we turn and soon it will be impossible to go without.  As with anything else, using computers is not a bad thing if used responsibly and as directed.  Take the advice as mentioned above to your benefit and you’ll be on your way to greatly reducing any risks to your health that may accompany using your computer.