Healthy Computing - Avoiding injury while using your computer
A part of our daily lives
No other device has changed our lives like computers. The growth of computers and related technologies has been so unprecedented that it has found a place in every aspect of human life. There has been a lot of discussion in the media about the side effects of using computers for a long time - after revolutionizing the world with its multitude of uses, the health hazards of long time computer usage became a real revelation for millions of users.
The most common ailments related to computer usage are vision defects and wrist injuries. Millions experience computer-related problems every year. Though these facts can be frightening, with a little care you can avoid many of these problems.
Computers are used by millions of people every day around the world. Each person has his own way of working and his own preferences for device placement. No one placement will work for everybody. This is a guide with tips and tricks to minimize or eradicate your identified stress and strain while using your computer.
Positioning Your Body
Before discussing how to set up your computer workstation, let's have a look at the concept of neutral body positioning. This can be defined as a comfortable working posture with a natural alignment of all your joints from head to toes. This method of neutral positioning helps you reduce the stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal system thus reducing the risks of developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). If you are a person who would like to maintain neutral body postures while working at the computer workstation, then you should be considering the following instructions:
- Ensure that your hands, wrists, and forearms are in a row, straight, and almost parallel to the floor.
- Ensure that your head and torso are in-line with head slightly bent forward, facing towards the front, and balanced.
- Ensure that your shoulders are at ease with upper arms hanging normally at the sides of your body.
- Ensure that your elbows are close to your body and bent between 90 and 110 degrees.
- The feet should be either supported by a footrest or should be relaxing on the floor.
- While leaning back or sitting in a vertical position, ensure that your back is supported fully with firm hold on the lumbosacral area.
- Your seat should be well padded in order to support your hips and thighs.
- Ensure that your knees and hips are in almost the same height with your feet slightly forward.
Even though you are positioned in the best of postures at your workstation, it is not healthy to continue in that posture for long hours. It is ideal to change your position every now and then. The following are some tips to reduce your strain from continuing in the same posture in front of your computer.
- Your chair and backrest have to be adjusted at regular intervals.
- Your fingers, hands, arms, and torso need to be stretched periodically. You need to stand up, stretch your back muscles, and stroll around for a few minutes now and again.
Let's see some examples of changes in body postures that ensure neutral body positioning.
Vertical Sitting Posture
The neck and torso of the user are more or less vertical and in a row, the thighs are almost horizontal, with vertically positioned lower legs.
The legs, torso, neck, and head of the user are more or less in a row and vertical. The body weight of the user is either shared by both the legs or may elevate to a single leg.
Declined Sitting Posture
The thighs of the user are inclined, the buttocks are higher than the knee and the angle between the thighs and the torso is greater than 90 degrees. The torso is vertical or slightly stretched out and the legs are vertical.
Reclined Sitting Posture
The torso and neck of the user are straight and tilted back between 105 and 120 degrees from the thighs.
Selection and Arrangement of the Components for the Workstation
The setting of the workstation, the selection and arrangement of the chair and other accessories, and your comfort in handling all the accessories are the most vital factors that help the user to maintain a neutral body position. You need to check the following before starting to work on the system.
- Check whether the workstation is set up well. The keyboard, the monitor, and your posture should be on a straight line so as to avoid any positional discomforts.
- Never look up at the screen. Always adjust your chair so you look down at the screen.
- The desktop should be at a convenient height with enough space for your computer and papers, if any.
- The chair should give good support to your back with height-adjusting options.
- The keyboard and the mouse mat should have a good wrist-rest.
- For those who are typing copy, have a document holder so that you don't strain your neck and head too much.
Let us discuss how to select and arrange particular components for the workstation to help you carry out your work more professionally and safely. The following sections explain how to select and arrange specific workstation components.
Most of your time is spent looking at the monitor. As a result, utmost care should be given in choosing and appropriately placing it in your workstation. Suitable positioning of the monitor will help you reduce exposure to compelling exertions, inept postures, and overhead glare. Possible health issues like extreme exhaustion, eyestrain and related disorders like itching, sty, power variations of the eye lens, and neck and back pain can be avoided with proper positioning of the monitor. The positioning of the monitor should be in concurrence with the other components like the keyboard, desk, and chair.
While using the monitor, ensure the following:
- Ensure that the monitor is in front of you and at least 20 inches away.
- Ensure that the top line of the screen is at or below your eye level.
- Ensure that the monitor is placed perpendicular to any window.
The viewing distance, viewing time, viewing angle, and viewing clarity have to be adjusted to get the best results without affecting your health.
- You tend to lean forward or move backward thus positioning yourself awkwardly to have a better view of the monitor. Ensure that the monitors are neither too close or too far.
- Viewing distance longer than normal: When you lean forward to view the monitor better, you are straining your eyes as well as your torso. Your backbone doesn't get any support which causes severe pain on your shoulders and the back.
- Viewing distance shorter than normal: There is a tendency to move backward for better focus which in turn causes convergence problems with your eyes. Also you may tend to tilt your head backward or push yourself away from the monitor in which case you may have to outstretch your arms to do typing. This may cause pain in your arms, fingers, wrists, and elbow.
- Position yourself at a secure distance from the monitor where you can read all text without straining your eyes. Ensure that your head and torso are straight and your chair is firmly supporting the back. Ophthalmologists usually recommend a safe viewing distance between 20 and 40 inches (50 and 100 cm) from the eye to the front surface of the computer screen. If you still feel difficulty reading the text, increase the font size.
There should be ample desk space between the user and the monitor (table depth). If the desk space is not enough, here are some tips:
- Pull the desk away from the wall or the divider thus giving more space for the back of the monitor.
- Normally flat-panel displays are used which requires less desk space and are not as deep as the conventional monitor.
- In order to make a deeper working surface, you can try installing an adjustable keyboard tray.
Viewing Angle: Height and Side to Side
Probable Risks, Side to side
When you work in front of your computer for long hours with your head and neck turned to one side, you are sure to increase fatigue and pain in your neck muscles.
- While working on your computer, your head, neck, and torso should face forward and you need to be careful about positioning the monitor. The ideal position is to place it directly in front of you. But, if that is not possible every time, the maximum tilt recommended is 35 degrees to the left or right.
- If your work is chiefly involved with printed matter, it will be ideal to place the monitor a little to the side with the printed matter just in front of you. The distance between the monitor and the printed matter should be minimal.
Probable Risks, Height
Monitors that are placed too high or too low are not recommended for people who have to use computers for long hours per day. It affects the head, neck, shoulders, and the back, as they have to adjust their positions for better view of the monitor. In the long run, the muscles that support the head are fatigued due to these awkward postures.
- Ensure that the top part of the monitor is either at the same level of your eyes or slightly below it. Also, the center of the monitor should be located 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level.
- The entire visual area of the display screen should be located so that the downward viewing angle is never greater than 60 degrees when you are in any of the four reference postures. While in the reclining posture, the straightforward line of sight will not be parallel with the floor. This would increase the downward viewing angle. Also, very large monitors increase the angle.
- Do not to place the monitor above other equipment like the CPU or surge protector. The monitor would be much higher than your eyes and may increase the strain on your eyes, neck, and back.
- The chair can be raised to lift your line of sight. Ensure that your feet get good support and your thighs can move freely under the desk.
Those who use bifocal lenses normally view the monitor through the bottom portion of their lenses. In such case, they automatically tilt their head backward to have a better view of the monitor. And if the monitor is placed too high, the muscles that support their head easily get fatigued.
The monitor can be lowered to avoid any kind of strain to the neck and eyes. The screen can be tilted a little upward for convenience.
Bifocal Lenses Cause Stress
- The user is supposed to raise the height of the chair until the monitor can be viewed without having to tilt the head backwards. A footrest can be used and the keyboard can be raised a little for convenience.
- Good single-vision lenses are available on the market with focal lengths designed for working on the computer. Viewing the monitor through the bottom portion of the lens can be avoided by using a pair of single-vision lenses.
If you view the monitor continuously for long hours without taking breaks, your eyes become dry and exhausted easily. You tend to blink less while working for long hours.
- Give rest to your eyes every so often by focusing on objects that are at a considerable distance from your seat like a painting on the wall around 20 feet away.
- Periodically wet your eyes by blinking and looking at distant objects.
- You tend to slow down in your work if you keep working for long hours on the computer. The ideal solution would be to take breaks in between and attend to other non-computer work like filing, making calls, or interacting with your customers. This gives good rest to your eyes.
Do not tilt monitors considerably toward or away from you, as the objects on the screen may appear distorted making them illegible. And if the monitor is tilted back, there are chances of the overhead lights creating glare on it. You tend to sit in different unhealthy positions to get a better view of the screen hence straining your eyes and back.
If the image that you view on the screen is of poor quality, your eyes have to strain more to view it properly. The distorted images may be due to electromagnetic fields caused by other electrical equipment located near computer workstations or due to dust accumulation. This is often accelerated by magnetic fields associated with computer monitors and can reduce contrast and degrade viewing conditions.
- You can tilt the monitor somewhere between 10 to 20 degrees so that it is perpendicular to your line of sight. For this purpose, it is better to have a riser/swivel stand. If this is not possible, you can tilt the monitor back slightly by placing a book under the front edge. But to avoid glare in this case, use a glare screen.
- Monitor support surfaces should be user friendly by allowing the user to modify viewing distances and the tilt and rotation angles.
- Equipment with electrostatic potential more than +/- 500 volts should be kept away from your workstation.
- Ensure that the monitor is dust free while in use.
The selection and arrangement of the keyboard plays an important role in decreasing the exposure to awkward postures, repetition, and stress. While designing your computer workstation, you should keep in mind certain vital factors like the height of the keyboard, its distance, and the use.
- Ensure that the keyboard is placed directly in front of you.
- Ensure that the elbows are close to your body and the shoulders are in relaxed position.
- Ensure that your wrists are straight and inline with your forearms.
Keyboard Placement: Height and Distance
Probable Risks, Height
You tend to keep your shoulders, arms, and wrists in awkward positions if the keyboard, pointing devices, or working surfaces are placed too high or too low. Normally, your wrists bend up when the keyboards are placed too low and you raise your shoulders to elevate your arms when the keyboards are placed too high. Such awkward postures may lead to discomfort of the wrist, hand, and your shoulder.
- To maintain a neutral body posture, the height of the chair and the work surface need to be adjusted. Your elbows need to hang comfortably to the side of the body with the height almost same as the keyboard. The shoulders need to be in a relaxed position and ensure that your wrists do not bend up or down or to either side while you are using the keyboard.
- Ensure that the thickness of your work surface is not more than 2 inches.
- Good keyboard trays with adjustable height and tilt that give enough space for legs along with adequate space for other input devices like the mouse are available if you find it difficult to adjust your work surface or your chair. While selecting a keyboard tray, ensure that it has all the mentioned features
- The vertical position of the keyboard should be maintained within the recommended range. Its tilt can be raised or lowered using the keyboard feet to maintain straight, neutral wrist postures while making slight changes in arm angles.
Probable Risks, Distance
A keyboard user is forced to assume awkward postures such as reaching with the arms, leaning forward with the torso, and extreme elbow angles if the keyboard or pointer/mouse is placed too close or too far away from him. Studies have shown that such awkward postures generally lead to musculoskeletal disorders of the elbows, shoulders, hands, and wrists.
- Ensure that the keyboard is placed directly in front of you at a distance that keeps your elbows close to your body with the forearms approximately parallel with the floor.
- If the armrest of your chair doesn't allow sitting in a comfortable position or if your desk space is small, you can use a keyboard tray.
Keyboard Design and Use
While using a traditional keyboard, you may have to bend your wrists sideways to reach all the keys. When you extend the legs on the back of the keyboard, you tend to bend your wrists upward. The keyboards on laptop computers that are comparatively smaller than the normal ones also force the user to sit in awkward positions. This in turn leads to contact stress to the tendon sheath and tendons that must move within the wrist during repetitive keying.
- Adjust the height of the keyboard or chair to attain a neutral wrist posture thus reducing awkward wrist angles.
- The user may even elevate the back or front of keyboard to achieve a neutral wrist posture. Normally, if the user is sitting in a position lower than that of the keyboard, a slight elevation made to the back of the keyboard would help maintain a neutral wrist. Similarly, if the user is typing with the keyboard in a lower position, raising the front of the keyboard may help maintain neutral wrist postures. If the keyboard feet tend to increase the bending of the wrist, do not use them.
- You can sit with neutral wrist postures by taking into account alternative keyboards. These can be provided on a case-by-case basis. It takes time to get used to such mechanisms. Though alternative keyboards help users maintain neutral wrist postures, studies have not yet provided enough information regarding their capability to avoid discomfort and injury.
- The size of the keyboard and spacing of the keys should be of appropriate size to suit the majority of customers. The recommended spacing between the centers of two keys horizontally is 0.71-0.75 inches (18-19 mm) and vertically it is 0.71-0.82 inches (18-21 mm).
Keyboards in General
- You can maintain neutral wrist postures by using split keyboard designs.
- Keyboards with more adjustment options are often better than the others to maintain neutral wrist postures. There are keyboards with adjustable feet that can accommodate a wider range of keyboard positions and angles. Keyboards with adjustable feet on the front as well as the back will further aid adjustments.
- Ensure that the cord connecting the keyboard and the CPU has ample length to let the user place both these components in a variety of convenient positions in the workstation. The recommended cord length is around six feet.
- Consider a keyboard without a 10-key keypad if the task does not require one. If the task does require one occasionally, a keyboard with a separate 10-key keypad may be appropriate. Keyboards without keypads allow the user to place the mouse closer to the keyboard.
- If you prefer to work with the keyboard tray, ensure that the size and shape of the keyboard matches with that of the tray.
- It is always better to buy separate wrist rests than going for keyboards with built-in wrist rests.
- If you have to work for prolonged hours with keyboards, detach them from the display screen. Do not use laptop for long hours of typing jobs.
- The width and depth of the keyboard tray should be large enough to accommodate the keyboard and any secondary devices, such as a mouse.
- The minimum vertical adjustment range (for a sitting position) should be 22 inches to 28 inches from the floor, if you are working in the sitting position using the keyboard tray.
- Ensure that your keyboard tray has adjustment mechanisms that lock into position without having to turn knobs. These are frequently over tightened, which can lead to stripped threads, or they may be difficult for some users to loosen.
Your Mouse or Pointer
The pointing device or the mouse is now available in different sizes, shapes, and configurations. Apart from the conventional mouse, other pointing devices include touch pads, trackballs, fingertip joysticks, and pucks. While designing a safe workstation, you should give great importance to selection and positioning of pointer/mouse. Keep in mind the following factors while evaluating your workstation.
1) Pointer Placement
2) Pointer Size, Shape, and Settings
- Ensure that the pointer/mouse is close to the keyboard.
- Ensure that you use alternate hands while handling the pointer/mouse.
- Learn and use keyboard short cuts to reduce extended use of the mouse.
If the pointer/mouse is not placed near the keyboard, there is a chance that your body will be exposed to awkward postures, contact stress, or forceful hand exertions while operating the device. If you continue to work in such postures for long hours, your shoulders and arms will be stressed out. For convenience you might sit with awkward wrist and shoulder postures that might lead to musculoskeletal disorders in the long run.
- Select a particular position for the pointer/mouse so that you can maintain a straight, neutral wrist posture. If required, you may make slight adjustments in your chair, desk, keyboard tray, etc.
- If the keyboard tray/surface that you use does not have enough space for both the keyboard and the mouse, you can try out the following suggestions:
- You can use a mouse platform over the keyboard that helps you to use the mouse above the 10-key pad.
- You can set up a mouse tray next to the keyboard tray.
- You can get a keyboard that has a pointing device, such as a touch pad, incorporated into it so that the work gets done even without the help of the mouse.
- You can try using a keyboard without a ten-key pad, which leaves more room for the pointer/mouse.
- You can install keyboard trays that are big enough to accommodate both the keyboard and mouse.
- You can try a mouse pad with a wrist/palm rest to promote neutral wrist posture.
- You can substitute keystrokes hence and depend less on the mouse, such as Ctrl+S to save, Ctrl+P to print etc.
Pointer Size, Shape, and Settings
If the size and shape of the pointers that you choose are unsuitable, it may force you to sit in awkward postures, thereby increasing stress and overexertion. Generally, pointing devices that are too big or too small make the fingers apply more force and bend the wrist to awkward positions. Also, if you operate a device designed for the right hand with your left hand, it leads to posture disorders that can create contact stress to the soft tissue areas in the palm of the hand. Contact stress leads to irritation and inflammation.
- The pointing device has to be selected to fit the hand of the user who will be using it most. Pointing devices to fit right and left hands as well as small and large hands are available on the market. It is ideal to select a pointing device that is designed for either hand because you can switch from one hand to the other while operating the device,giving rest to one hand at a time. Before selection of the device, it is better to test it and ensure proper fit and feel.
- The size of the device matters and while selecting you need to ensure that you have to apply only a minimum force to generate movement. Normally puck devices should be small in size for using with a single hand with a width of 1.5 to 2.5 inches, length of 2.5 to 4.5 inches, and a height of 1 to 1.5 inches.
- It is better to reduce your dependence on the pointing device by using short cut keys and other options available on the keyboard like page down thereby reducing the strain on hands.
- Try out other pointing devices like a joystick, touch pad, or trackball that fits your hand better and doesn't require bending the wrists when you grip the device. Remember to try out new products prior to selection and long-term use.
If the sensitivity of the input device is not set properly, you tend to use more force and awkward hand postures to control it. For example, a very sensitive mouse may require excessive and extended finger force for good control. If the sensitivity of the mouse is not enough, you need to move the wrist in a wider angle to move the pointer to your desired place. When you exert your wrist forcefully for a long time or bend it repeatedly to place the pointer, your hand and arm muscles get fatigued, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
- The speed of the pointer may be defined as the pace in which it moves on the screen when you move the pointing device with the hand. The pointing device that you select should be sensitive and fast enough so that you can comfortably adjust and control it as required. Also, the pointer should cover the entire screen of the monitor while your wrist is relaxed in a straight, neutral posture.
- In order to control the pointing device with a light touch without straining your wrist, it is better to set its sensitivity. Devices in which the sensitivity can be adjusted through the computer control panel are now available.
- Do not grip the mouse/pointing device tightly in order to get good control of it.
- If you are using a trackball, ensure that its exposed surface is not less that 100 degrees. It has to comfortably rotate in all directions for the user to try any combination of movement as required.
Mouse/Pointing Devices In General
1. The mouse/pointing device should be selected based on the requirements of your job and your physical restrictions. Other than preference, there is no much difference between a mouse, trackball, and other pointing devices.
2. The cord of the mouse should be long enough to be conveniently placed near the keyboard. The shape and size of the mouse should be good enough to fit snug into the curve of your hand.
3. Among the different pointing devices, if you prefer a trackball for your work, remember not to select the ones that need your thumb for rolling the ball. This can cause discomfort and possible injury to the area around your thumb.
4. If the user's hands are small, then select a mouse that is smaller than the normal ones. But if multiple users are using it, then a normal-sized one should be retained.
5. Always go for a mouse that has good sensitivity adjustments and that can be used by both hands conveniently.
Wrist Rest Guidelines
To keep the contact stress that can occur while typing and while using the mouse to a minimum, it is better to use a wrist rest so that you can maintain straight wrist postures.
- The wrists tend to bend in a wider angle if you use the keyboard for long hours without using a wrist rest. As the angle of bend increases, the contact stress and irritation on tendons and tendon sheathes also increases. Professionals who depend more on keyboards to get their job done have to be very careful. The contact stress between the wrist of the user and the hard/sharp components in the workstation also increases.
- The motion of the wrist is slowed down while you are resting the wrist/palm on a support during typing jobs that will in turn lead to awkward wrist postures.
- Ensure that your hands are moving freely and are raised above the wrist/palm rest while using the keyboard. Also remember that the pad should be in touch with the palm of your hand and not your wrist while resting on the wrist rest.
- Ensure that these are part of a well-designed workstation.
- Do not frequently bend your wrists by adjusting other workstation components like that chair, desk, or the keyboard. See to it that your wrists are in a straight, neutral posture.
- The wrist support should be matched with the width, height, and slope of the front edge of the keyboard.
- The wrist/palm supports should be fairly soft and rounded to minimize pressure on the wrist. Ideally it should be at least 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) deep.
It would be better to use gel type materials for the padding that makes it soft and firm.
While working with printed materials, document holders keep them near the user and the monitor. These can be positioned according to the convenience of the user depending on the type of document and the task performed. Risk factors like awkward postures of the head and neck, fatigue, headaches, and eyestrain can be reduced by proper placement of these holders. If the monitor and keyboard are well placed and the user's chair is properly adjusted, then the holder can be placed without causing strain to the different body parts.
Document Holder Guidelines
The height and distance at which the printed materials are placed should be the same as that of the monitor.
You tend to move your head and neck frequently or keep your head in awkward postures if the printed material that you are working on is kept too far from the monitor. Such postures can lead to muscle fatigue and tenderness of the head, neck, and shoulders.
- Ensure that the document holders you use can place the documents at almost the same height and distance as the monitor. Even if you have to work on a big textbook, ensure that the holder is stable enough for that purpose.
- You can get good document holders that can be placed directly below the monitor.
- Ensure that task lighting on the document does not create glare on the monitor.
Before selecting a desk for your computer workstation, you should keep in mind design and space. It should provide enough leg space, adequate space for other components and accessories and should help you minimize awkward postures and exertions. The installation, setup, and configuration of relaxed and productive workstations involve the following considerations:
Desk or work surface areas
Areas under the desk or work surface
Desk Quick Tips
- Ensure that the desk surface is capable of keeping the monitor directly in front of you at a distance of at least 20 inches away.
- Do not keep items like the CPU under the desk.
- The desk should allow you to work in various comfortable postures.
Desk or Work Surface Areas
When the desk doesn't have enough space to accommodate all the components and accessories, you tend to place them in unfavorable positions. This in turn leads to awkward postures when you have to access a pointer/mouse or look at a monitor that is placed to the side.
- Ensure that at least your mouse and keyboard are placed conveniently so that you don't have to sit in awkward positions every time you access them.
- Ensure that your work surface allows you to see the screen at a distance of at least 20 inches (50 cm), and position it to achieve the appropriate viewing angle, which is generally directly in front of you.
- Frequently used devices such as keyboards, phones, and the mouse should be kept in the most easily accessible positions.
There are some workstations where the desk and certain equipment have hard edges that usually touch the arm or wrist of the user. This, in the long run, may lead to contact stress affecting the nerves and blood vessels, causing tingling and sore fingers.
Reasonably priced materials like pipe insulation can be padded on the hard edges of the table to reduce contact stress. Also use wrist rests and select only furniture with rounded desktop edges.
Discomfort and inefficient performance of the computer operator may be due to insufficient clearance under the work surface. Some common discomforts are shoulder, back, and neck pain due to the long distance to computer components, causing users to reach to perform computer tasks; and generalized fatigue, circulation restrictions, and contact stress due to limitation of movement and inability to frequently change postures.
- Give enough clearance space for users to frequently change working postures. Items like files, CPUs, books, and storage should not be kept there.
- Ensure that the clearance spaces under all working surfaces accommodate at least two of the three seated reference working postures, one of which must be the upright-seated posture.
Desk surfaces can lead to awkward postures such as extending your arms to reach the keyboard or raising your shoulders to get the job done. This may lead to muscular fatigue of the arms and shoulders.
- Risers like boards or concrete blocks can be inserted under the desk legs to lift the work surface.
- Certain conventional desks have center drawers that block your thigh space. These can be removed for free movement of your thighs.
- Cutting off the legs of the desk can lower work surfaces. If this does not work, the chair can be raised a little depending on the height of the user. A footrest, if necessary, can be used to support the user's feet.
- Always select height-adjustable desks. Normally, the desk should be between 20-28 inches (50-72 cm) high.
1. Ensure that the desk area is deep enough to accommodate a monitor placed at least 20 inches away from your eyes.
2. It is recommended that the desk should have a work surface large enough to accommodate a monitor and a keyboard. Normally, a desk with a depth of about 30 inches is used to accommodate these items.
3. The height of the desk should be adjustable between 20 inches and 28 inches while the user is in sitting position. The desk surface should be at about the height of your elbow while sitting with your feet flat on the floor. Adjustments between seated and standing heights is desirable.
4. Ensure that the user has sufficient space to place frequently used items like the keyboard, mouse, and monitor directly in front of you.
5. Your desk should provide enough space underneath for your legs while sitting in all convenient positions. The minimum under-desk clearance depth should be 15 inches for your knees and 24 inches for your feet. There should be at least 20 inches clearance width.
6. When you purchase a desk with a fixed height, ensure that you have a keyboard tray to provide enough height adjustment to suit multiple users.
7. Avoid glass tops and glossy desktops. Ensure that your desktops have a matte finish to minimize glare.
8. At areas where your arms touch the work surfaces, ensure that there are no sharp edges. Rounded or sloping surfaces are preferable.
9. The leading edge of the work surface should be wide enough to accommodate the arms of your chair, usually about 24 inches to 27 inches. If the space is less than this, it will interfere with armrests and restrict your movement. This is to be kept in mind especially while working in four-corner work units.
Being an inevitable part of a good workstation, the chair offers essential support to the back, legs, buttocks, and arms, along with reducing exposure to awkward postures, contact stress, and forceful exertions. The advantages of using a chair with increased adjustments allows for a better fit for the user, providing sufficient support in a variety of sitting postures, and allowing a variety of convenient sitting positions throughout the workday. If more than one person is using the chair per day, these points have more relevance.
To ensure that the chair will provide adequate support, it is important that you try out different chairs before purchasing one. To create a safe and dynamic workstation, the following parts of the chair have to be observed in detail before selection.
The chair should be adjusted after placing the monitor, keyboard and desk in your workstation.
If the backrest of the chair is not designed properly with adequate size, material, and positioning, the back support will not be sufficient. This would lead to inappropriate postures that cause back pain and fatigue. A chair without a suitable or appropriate backrest will fail in supporting your lumbar spine and won't maintain the natural S-shape curvature of the spine.
- Roll up a towel at the lumbar region or place a removable back support cushion for temporary support if the chair that you use currently doesn't provide a good lumbar support. This would help you maintain the natural curve of the spine.
- You can try using a chair with easily adjustable backrests which support the back in all your convenient seating postures. A backrest should have the following features:
- The backrest should have a good lumbar support with adjustable height options for fitting the lower back in different postures. Ensure that the outward curve of the backrest fits into the small of the back.
- The backrest should have an adjustment that allows the user to recline at least 15 degrees from the vertical. The backrest should lock in place or be tension adjustable so that adequate resistance is ensured to lower back movement.
- Shorter users can sit with their backs against the backrest without worrying about their knees touching the front edge of the seat pan with the help of a device that enables it to move forward and backward. Taller users can sit with their backs against the backrest while supporting their thighs and buttocks fully.
Chairs that are too high force the user to work with their feet unsupported and makes them move forward in the chair to a position where the back gets zero support which makes it even more difficult for them to maintain the S-shape of the spine. If the user sits continuously in such postures, it can cause fatigue, restricted circulation, swelling, numbness, and pain.
- Make use of a footrest that gives good support to the feet if your seat cannot be lowered.
- The seat pan of your chair should be adjustable and of appropriate size to provide support to your body in all your convenient postures. See to it that the seat has the following features:
- The height of the seat should be adjustable especially when there are multiple users. It is ideal if the entire sole of the user's feet can be rested on the floor with the back portion of the knee slightly higher that the seat of the chair.
- The seat is padded and has a rounded, "waterfall" edge.
- The width of the seat should accommodate almost all hip sizes, at least the majority. For larger users, those with oversize seat pans should be provided.
It is very uncomfortable for the user to sit in a seat pan that is inappropriately sized. It fails to give enough support to the legs and restricts the whole body movements of the user. Shorter ones place more pressure on the buttocks of the taller users and longer ones place more pressure on the knees of the shorter users minimizing the back support. One that is too small can restrict movement and provide inadequate support. Prolonged use can restrict blood flow to the legs and create irritation and pain.
- The depth of the seat pan should be adjustable to support taller users adequately while simultaneously allowing shorter users to sit with full support to their back. It should also provide support for most of the thigh without contact between the back of the user's knee and the front edge of the seat pan.
- Always use a footrest, which elevates the knee slightly to relieve pressure on the back of the leg.
- Use a chair that is sized to fit small or large users. This is very important if multiple users share the chair.
Most users tend to sit in awkward postures and thus lack adequate support if the armrests they use are not adjustable. Let's discuss the negative points of such armrests:
Armrests that are too low force you to lean over to the side to rest one forearm which in turn results in uneven and awkward postures, fatiguing the neck, shoulders, and back.
Armrests that are too high force you to sit with raised shoulders resulting in muscle tension and fatigue in the neck and shoulders.
Armrests that are too wide force you to reach with the elbow and bend forward for support. This results in pulling the arm from the body and leads to muscle fatigue in the shoulders and neck.
Armrests that are too close restrict movement in and out of the chair.
Armrests that are too large or inappropriately placed may interfere with the positioning of the chair. If the chair cannot be placed close enough to the keyboard, you may have to reach and lean forward in your chair. This in turn leads to fatigue and strain the lower back, arm, and shoulder.
Armrests that are made of hard materials or that have sharp corners can irritate the nerves and blood vessels located in the forearm. This will create pain or tingling in the fingers, hand, and arm.
Some chairs come with armrests that give more discomfort than comfort while working on the computer. Some interfere with your workstation and some others cannot be adjusted properly. Try removing such armrests or at least stop using them. While selecting chairs with armrests, check whether they can be adjusted according to your postures so that they give good support to your lower arm while allowing the upper arm to be close to the body. Armrests that can be properly adjusted should have the following features:
They should have ample width for the users to get in and get out of the chair easily.
They should be close enough to support your lower arms keeping your upper arms close to your torso.
They should be low enough keeping your shoulders relaxed while working on the computer.
They should be high enough to support your lower arms when positioned comfortably at your sides. If the armrests are too low and you find it difficult to adjust them, add padding to the top of the armrests.
They should be large enough to support most of your lower arm. Moreover, ensure that they are small so that they do not interfere with your chair positioning.
Ensure that the armrests are made of soft material and have blunt edges.
It is not necessary that all users keep armrests on their chairs. It depends on the amount of hours the user spends on the system per day, whether the user has suffered from or is suffering from musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), or whether the user prefers to work with armrests on the chair. But, if you have already decided to have a pair for your chair, do consider all the above-mentioned points before selecting the product.
- If the number of legs on your chair are four or less than four, the support and balance it gives the user will be less and there are chances of the chair bending and the user falling down.
- If the casters used for the chair are not good or if the chair doesn't have casters, the user might find it difficult to position the chair with respect to the desk. This may result in the user bending to access the different components that in turn might lead to muscular strain and fatigue.
- Ensure that your chair has a strong, five-legged base.
- The casters of the chair should go with the flooring of the workstation. Ensure that the casters of your chair are proper enough.
Prolonged Periods of Activity
The software industry provides jobs to many people. Computer work, when viewed from a total body outlook, may seem to be an effortless activity, whether it's for a job or for fun. But if the user performs highly repetitive tasks for prolonged periods in the same posture, it may cause discomfort in localized areas of the body. For instance, everybody depends on the mouse while working on the computer. If this is used for a few minutes, it should not be a problem for most users. But performing this task continuously for more than a few uninterrupted hours can expose the small muscles and tendons of the hand to hundreds or even thousands of activations (repetitions). The user may not get enough time between activations for rest and recovery, which can cause localized fatigue, wear and tear, and injury. Similarly, if the user maintains static postures continuously, such as viewing the monitor without taking a break, it can fatigue the muscles of the neck and shoulder that support the head.
1) Try to vary your tasks and workstations so that you get ample time to recover from the outcome of your activity.
2) Design your workstation in such a way that you can easily change your working postures according to your convenience. It is always safe to select adjustable furniture for the workstation that allow you to shift to different seated postures every time you want to. This helps different muscle groups provide support while others rest.
3) Your work area should be spacious enough to let you use the mouse with either hand alternately. Thus the tendons and muscles of the free hand get enough relaxation.
4) Certain jobs require more dependence on the mouse. Users in such professions should learn to use more shortcut keys.
5) Jobs that involve more repeated tasks or prolonged static postures may lead to muscular strain. The users should forcefully take several short breaks or relaxed pauses. The users should stand, stretch, and move around during such breaks. This increases blood circulation and gives enough time for the muscles to relax.
6) Try to mix computer tasks and non-computer tasks alternately in all possible situations. This encourages the movement of different parts of the body by using different muscle groups.
You can have a better view of the monitor and see the images clearly if you take good care in selecting the right level of illumination and place it appropriately. Normally, brighter lighting or sources that cause glare on your monitor lead to eyestrain or headaches which may force you to work in awkward postures to have a better view of the screen. The comfort of the user and his productivity is related to the aeration and moisture levels in the workstation environment. We will take a look at the three factors that affect the workstation environment.
Environment Quick Tips
1) You should design your office in such a way that the glare from overhead lights, desk lamps, and windows is reduced to a maximum.
2) Your office room should be designed in such a way as to maintain appropriate air circulation.
3) Do not sit directly under air conditioning vents that push air right on top of you.
Lighting is a very important aspect of a healthy working environment.
1. The lighting at your workstation depends on the type of job you are involved in. Use bright lights with a large lighted area while working with printed materials. Limit the brightness of light for computer tasks.
2. The user should be able to adjust the position and angle of the light sources, as well as their intensity levels.
3. To direct or diffuse the light, it should have a hood or filter.
4. The base of the light should be large enough to allow a variety of convenient positions or extensions.
If the monitor is displayed with maximum brightness, you will have to strain your eyes more to view the objects on the screen clearly thus leading to eye fatigue.
1) It is ideal to place lights parallel to your line of sight in different rows.
2) Try to use light diffusers so that you can do the desk jobs like writing, reading papers etc. while limiting direct brightness on the computer screen.
3) While using 4-bulb fluorescent light fixtures, it is ideal to remove the middle bulbs to reduce the brightness of the light to levels well suited with computer tasks, if diffusers or alternative light sources are not available.
Note: A standard fluorescent light fixture on a nine-foot ceiling with four, 40-watt bulbs will produce approximately 50 foot-candles of light at the desktop level.
4) You need to have good desk lighting for proper illumination while writing and reading tasks thus limiting brightness around monitors.
5) Generally, for paper tasks and offices with CRT displays, office lighting should range between 20 to 50 foot-candles. For LCD monitors, higher levels of light are usually needed for the same viewing tasks (up to 73 foot-candles).
The light sources behind the display screen can create contrast problems, making it difficult to view the screen clearly.
1) You can try using blinds or drapes on windows to eliminate bright light. The placement of blinds and furniture should be adjusted to allow light into the room, but not directly into your field of view.
Note: Vertical blinds are ideal for windows facing east/west directions and horizontal blinds are ideal for windows facing north/south directions.
2) Indirect or shielded lighting can be used wherever possible. Try to avoid intense or uneven lighting in your field of vision. You should also ensure that lamps have glare shields or shades to direct light away from your line of sight.
3) If the bright lights from open windows in your work area are at right angles with your computer screen, change the orientation of your workstation.
The sources of direct light like windows and overhead lights that cause reflected light to show up on the monitor make images more difficult to see, resulting in eyestrain and fatigue.
1) The display screen should be placed at right angles to windows and light sources. Task lighting like the desk lamp should be placed in such a way that the light does not reflect on the screen.
2) You should clean the monitor frequently by wiping with a clean and dry cloth. A layer of dust can add to glare.
3) You can help reduce the glare by using blinds or drapes on windows.
4) You can attach glare filters directly to the surface of the monitor to reduce glare. Take care that these filters do not significantly decrease screen visibility. In order to redirect lighting, you can install louvers, or "egg crates" in overhead lights.
5) To reduce glare from overhead lighting, you can use barriers or light diffusers on fixtures.
The user may suffer from discomfort, annoyance, or loss in visual performance and visibility due to the reflected light from polished surfaces such as keyboards.
You can paint your walls and work surfaces to limit reflection around the screen. Use a medium colored, non-reflective paint. Arrange workstations and lighting to avoid reflected glare on the display screen or surrounding surfaces.
1) If the ventilation system is poorly designed or not functioning properly, the user may experience discomfort. For instance, air conditioners or heaters that directly "dump" air on users are bad for health.
2) Your eyes tend to get dried easily due to the dry air, especially if you are wearing contact lenses.
3) If the air circulation in the room is poor, it can result in stuffy or stagnant conditions.
4) Your comfort and productivity is affected if the temperatures are above or below standard comfort levels.
1) If the air conditioning vents in your workplace are not designed to redirect the flow of air away from the underneath areas of the vents, try not to place desks, chairs, and other office furniture in these areas.
2) In order to redirect and mix airflow from ventilation systems, you can use diffusers or blocks.
3) Try to keep the airflow rates within three and six inches per second (7.5 and 15 centimeters per second). In fact, these airflow rates are barely noticeable or not noticeable at all.
4) The relative humidity of the air should be maintained between 30% and 60%.
5) During hot season, try to maintain the ambient indoor temperature between 68Â° and 74Â° F (20Â° and 23.5Â° C). During cold season, the recommended temperature is between 73Â° and 78Â° F (23Â° and 26Â° C).
Users will have discomfort and several health problems if they are exposed to chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ozone, and other particles from computers and their peripherals (say, laser printers).
1) Before purchasing a computer and its components, investigate about its potential to emit air ventilation diffuser pollutants. The components that are identified to emit pollutants should be placed in well-ventilated areas in your office.
2) You need to ensure sufficient supply of fresh air to maintain proper ventilation in your office room.
3) Before installing the new equipment, you must allow them to "air out" in a well-ventilated area.
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)
MSDs can range from general aches and pains to more serious problems. Medical practitioners recommend that all users who use computers regularly should report signs and symptoms as early as possible to prevent serious injury or permanent damage. The most commonly noticed signs and symptoms of MSD associated with computer use are as follows:
Signs and Symptoms
1) Numbness or a burning sensation in the hand
2) Reduced grip strength in the hand
3) Swelling or stiffness in the joints
4) Pain in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, or back followed by discomfort
5) Reduced range of motion in the shoulder, neck, or back
6) Dry, itchy, or sore eyes
7) Blurred or double vision
8) Aching or tingling
10) Loss of color in affected regions
12) Tension stress headaches and related ailments
These types of problem can be caused by any of the following factors:
- If the user maintains an unnatural or unhealthy posture while using the computer
- If the lower back support is inadequate for the user
- If the user continues to sit in the same position for an extended period of time
- If the set up of the workstation is ergonomically poor.
Prevention Is Better Than The Cure
It is always better to take precautions to avoid musculoskeletal disorders than to treat them after you get affected. Some general precautions include:
- Taking regular breaks from working at your computer - a few minutes at least once an hour
- Alternating work tasks like mixing computer tasks with non computer tasks alternately to avoid strain
- Regular stretching to relax your body
- Using comfort equipment such as footrests, wrist/palm rests, and document holders if required
- Keeping the mouse and keyboard at the same level
- Avoiding gripping your mouse too tightly - it is always recommended to hold the mouse lightly and click gently
- Familiarize yourself with keyboard shortcuts for applications you regularly use like Ctrl+S to save and Ctrl+P to print (to avoid overusing the mouse).
As discussed earlier, ensure that your workstation is set up correctly. Normally, it includes the monitor, keyboard, mouse, seating, desk, and where appropriate, footrest (to help you rest your feet flat if they don't reach the floor), wrist rest, and document holder.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
The work pattern of computer professionals carries a lot of orthopedic disorders. The chief complaint is constant pain in the upper limbs, neck, shoulders, and back. Upper limb disorders (also called RSI, or tenosynovitis) are the worst as they may rapidly lead to permanent incapacity.
Repetitive strain injury occurs when the movable parts of the limbs are injured. Most of the time, the victims of this injury are computer professionals, musicians, students, and others who have to use their hands regularly in a repetitive manner.
The users experience constant pain in the hands, elbows, shoulders, neck, and the back. Other symptoms are cramps, tingling, and numbness in the hands. The hand movements of the user may become clumsy and the person may find it difficult even to fasten buttons.
Another variant may produce painful symptoms in the upper limbs, but the site may be difficult to locate.
The common diagnoses seen in this group are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tenosynovitis, Bursitis, White Limb, and Shoulder pain. A major cause is strain due to long unbroken periods of work. Ergonomics or the lack of it plays a very important role. Lack of information about the condition leads to neglect by the concerned individuals.
People concerned should seek medical attention when early symptoms set in. Measures that can be adopted at an individual level include:
Posture: The recommended posture to sit in front of a computer is semi-reclined with the forearms resting in a cradle or on an extension of the keyboard support. There should be ample support for the back. The hands should be free and point in the direction of the forearms. The feet should rest on the ground or feet support. The distance of the monitor should be 18 inches or more and at a slightly lower level than the eye level.
Rest: The user should take short breaks every 15 minutes and slightly longer breaks after every hour.
Hydration: Drink adequate fluids to keep the tendons and soft tissues soft.
Shortcuts: Use keyboard shortcuts and less of mouse. Touch the keyboard softly and do not pound at it. The wrist should rest on the table or wrist rest.
Telephone use: Don't cradle the telephone between the face and shoulder while working, as this can lead to neck strain.
Messages: Don't use the computer while conveying messages in person or through the intercom.
No games: Games or surfing at work may increase stress on your hands.
Preventive Measures at the Organizational Level: Organizations that use computers in a big way can also adopt certain preventive measures. These include:
- You need to educate your employees on the importance of adopting a proper posture
- Ensure that all your employees are using quality ergonomic furniture that will save loss of working hours by guaranteeing full comfort of the employees.
- Give periodic reminders through lectures and audio-visual presentations by medical professionals on the importance of taking good care of health while using computers.
When symptoms set in, consult an orthopedic surgeon. Do not make the diagnosis yourself. The diagnosis will be made from history and clinical findings as there will be no changes in X-rays, since the soft tissues are involved. Nerve conduction studies can confirm the diagnosis. In cases detected earlier, attention to ergonomics will restore normalcy.
In cases diagnosed late, orthopedic treatment like injections and even minor surgery may be necessary.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Signs and symptoms:
1) Sore tendons
2) Burning, numb, or rubbery joints, wrist, hand, and shoulder muscles
3) Spasm in a muscle, including back and neck muscles.
Carpal tunnel and any other form of tendinitis or repetitive motion injury can be crippling for computer users and artists. There are even people who can no longer sit at the computer and have to stand or kneel down to get their work done. Even artists find it difficult to use their hands due to this problem.
What should you do?
It is very important that your hand and wrist are level with each other. There should be no angling up or down of the hand. They should be in the same level when your forearm is horizontal and parallel to the floor, and your upper arm should hang straight down, in a relaxed position. Hence, your keyboard and mouse area should be fairly low, close to your lap. If you find yourself lifting your shoulder, unconsciously, or tilting your wrist to raise your forearm to a comfortable level, your keyboard and mouse are not low enough. You can raise your chair, especially if you remove the center drawer of your desk, and use a footrest to keep your legs in a comfortable, supported position. Don't tense your legs to keep from falling forward - if you find yourself doing that, your chair is too far from the desk, is tilted forward, or is not giving you good back support. A footrest can help. Make sure you are sitting comfortably upright, with your lower back supported.
It is equally important that your arms and wrists are fully supported on a resilient surface. See to it that your arms are not resting on the sharp edge of a table or shelf! You can use a folded hand towel for padding. It provides a soft surface with an easily adjustable height. Moreover it is very comfortable and inexpensive.
Once you establish a comfortable position for your arms and body, you are not still fully safe. As your keyboard and mouse force you to hold the same position for long periods of time, you have more chances of incurring repetitive motion injury. You can try changing the mouse types every couple of weeks. You can shift from a rolling mouse to a track-ball, from a track-ball to a graphics tablet or other pointing devices. The longer you stick with one, the more repetitive motion injury you will cause. Once a tendon is inflamed it may take months or years to heal because very little blood flows in that area.
Eyestrain is the most common affliction that computer users all over the world experience. A number of symptoms associated with eyestrain have been experienced and proven worldwide. Let's have a look at some of the symptoms related to vision here:
Blurred or double vision
Burning and watering eyes
Headaches and frequent changes in prescription glasses
There is a basic problem with the prolonged viewing of computer screens. The nature of screen characters and images necessitates subtle but continual refocusing. If one has to regularly switch the attention between a close screen and more distant workspace objects things become more complicated. C.V.S. results from this change in dynamics.
Another cause is that the average person blinks approximately 4 times per minute, far less than the natural rate of 22 blinks per minute. This lower blink rate causes eye moisture to evaporate, resulting in a "dry eye" condition. The symptoms of dry eye are sensations such as itching, burning, blurring, heavy eyelids, fatigue and double vision.
There is no evidence yet that computer work causes permanent eye damage. But the temporary discomfort that may occur can reduce productivity, cause lost work time, and reduce job satisfaction and self-confidence of the user.
In most cases eyestrain results from visual fatigue or glare from bright windows or strong light sources, light reflecting off the display screen, or poor display screen contrast.
Methods to Avoid Eyestrain
- Give ample exercise to the eyes by periodically focusing on objects at varying distances
- Blink the eyes regularly
- Try to keep the air around you moist – For instance, you can use plants, open pans of water or a humidifier (spider plants are said to be particularly good for this and removing chemical vapors from the air)
- Adjust the screen height/seating so that while you are comfortably seated, your eyes are in line with the top of the monitor screen
- Adjust the brightness control on your monitor for comfort. Focusing on the monitor for a long time with full brightness can cause eyestrain.
- Adjust the contrast on your monitor to make the characters distinct from the background
- Adjust the refresh rate of your monitor to stop it flickering
- You need to position monitors in order to avoid glare (e.g. not directly in front of windows)
- Keep your monitor screen clean
- Keep the screen and document holder (if you use one) at the same distance from your eyes
- Try to place the reference materials as close to the screen as possible
- You need to service, repair, or replace monitors that flicker or have insufficient clarity
- Do regular eye testing at least once every 2 years and more frequently if necessary - especially if you are experiencing eye problems related to using display equipment. Specify the distance from your eyes to the monitor to your optician and get information regarding special lenses or the use of bifocals.
- Wear rigid rather than soft contact lens
Exercises and Breaks
After your workstation is set up, the next step is to use good work habits. Even if the work environment is suiting all your requirements and comfort levels, it may still lead to unwanted stresses and strains if good habits are not cultivated. Prolonged, static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body. Try the following:
Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.
Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor and focus on something in the distance.
Rest your eyes by covering them with your palms for 10-15 seconds.
Use correct posture when working. Keep moving as much as possible.
Some Exercises for Computer Users
While working on the computer, your body is at rest and gets no exercise. Computer users tend to get out of shape and gain weight apart from the other health problems discussed throughout this page. In the long run, these lead to all kinds of ailments.
Why does this happen? Because you become so engrossed in your work that you forget how long you have been sitting in front of the machine! And worse, you don’t get time for workouts in the mornings or evenings due to the tight work schedule.
Let’s have a look at some common and refreshing exercises that keep you fit and loose all day long. These can be done even at your work place during your micro breaks and short breaks.
To the sides: Focus both eyes to the sides, together. Do so to the left and right sides alternately five times each, without turning your neck or head.
Up and down: Similarly, look to top and bottom five times each alternately. Ensure that your head and neck are steady and are not moving while you move your eyes.
Rotation: Now, rotate your eyes to form a circle, both eyes focusing together at each point, five times in the clockwise direction and five times in the anticlockwise direction. This exercise can be done at your own comfortable pace.
To the sides: Breathe in, turn your neck to your right side and bring back to the normal position while you breathe out. This is done five times each to both right and left sides alternately.
Up and down: Similarly, breathe in and tilt your neck up so as to look at the roof. Now, bend down so that your chin touches your body while you breathe out. This is done up and down five times each at your own pace.
Rotation: Now, rotate your neck to form a circle while you breathe normally. Instead of rolling your head all the way back, pretend that you're looking at a clock. Let your head follow your eyes as if you're following the numbers on the clock. This is done five times in the clockwise direction and five times in the anticlockwise direction.
Wrist Rotation: Stretch both arms straight to the front with closed fists. Rotate both the fists together ten times in the clockwise direction and ten times in the anticlockwise direction. Do ensure that only your fists are rotating and the rest of your arms are stationary.
Elbow Rotation: Bend your hands toward your front and hold your shoulders with your palms. Now, rotate your elbows ten times in the clockwise and ten times in the anticlockwise direction.
Whole hands, small circles: Stretch both hands to the sides holding your palms straight up perpendicular to the hands. Now, make small circles with both palms ten times in the clockwise and ten times in the anticlockwise direction. Note that the smaller the circle, the better relaxation to your hands. This is an excellent exercise for those who have to sit in front of the computer for very long hours.
Whole hands, big circles: Stretch your hands to the sides. Make big circles (as big as possible) with both the hands ten times in the clockwise and ten times in the counterclockwise direction. The number of times can be increased gradually as this becomes less strenuous.
All these exercises can be done while you relax in your workstation seat. If you prefer doing them at home or in standing postures, you can stand in the ‘attention’ posture.
Backward: Stand straight in the attention posture. Breathe in while you bend back and come back to the normal position while you breathe out. While you bend back try to bend as much as possible without straining your back. Try to do this ten times.
Forward: Stand straight in the attention posture. Raise both hands up while you breathe in and come down to touch your toes without bending your knees while you breathe out. You might not be able to do it with perfection in the initial days, but can improve gradually day by day. Don’t try to touch your toes in the beginning as it might hurt your back. You can start off this exercise with five numbers gradually increasing to ten in the first week, fifteen in the second and third weeks, and can go til thirty-five daily if your back permits.
Shoulders: Use a large bath towel and grasp it at opposite corners. Sling it across the shoulder of tightness and bring both ends across to the opposite hip or waist. With the arm on that side pull gently downward and then release slowly.
Apart from these exercises, you can go jogging, brisk walks, do aerobics, swim, play outdoor games, etc. to be in good shape and improve your stamina.
Other helpful hints and exercises
Wrist Rubs: Place your forearm on a flat surface. Using the middle and index fingers of your other hand, rub the top of your forearm from side to side and continue down to your wrist and back. Do this several times. This wakes up the tendons and muscles in your arm so you don't start static.
Stretching the back: Raise your arms over your head and stretch. If you can, find a way to hang upside down (SAFELY!), using something like an inversion table. This will stretch out your spine and get the juices flowing.
Airplane rolls: Put your arms out to your sides parallel to the floor. Roll your arms forward ten times, then back ten times.
If you want a really great stretch, try Hindu pushups. We'll have a separate lens about those later, stay tuned.
If you're already injured...
If you already have tendinitis, don't work on a computer unless you absolutely have to. You need to let the tendons become less inflamed. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you can take anti-inflammatories.
A good method of soothing your forearms is to fill one sink with water as cold as you can stand it and the other with water as hot as you can stand it. Immerse your forearms in the cold water for five to ten minutes, then switch to hot for five to ten minutes. Do this several times and end with cold. A few sessions of this should give you marked improvement if there isn't something else wrong.
Keeping an appropriate workspace, stretching and taking short breaks will allow you to avoid some major injuries and keep you healthy. You will feel better and be more productive without losing out on activities because of a repetitive use injury.