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Computers and Your Health

Healthier Computing: Three Simple Things to Make Using Computers Better for Your Health

Some of us have been sitting in front of screens and using keyboards and other input devices for many hours, most days, for many many years. I'm not even willing to discuss what this might, or might not do, to your brain, but I do know that there are three areas of concern that may affect your future physical health.

1. Wrist and arm problems
This is sometimes called RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and/or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Don't underestimate this; it can be far more than just vague aches. Before treatment, I felt as if mains electricity was pouring through my arm and I was writhing on the ground in agony.

Prolonged keyboarding is clearly one aggravating cause, but my consultant believes it's the mouse that's the secret enemy we all neglect. You can buy devices to help with this (some cost 10,000 dollars +) but there's a simple, effectively-free, aid that everyone can use to help prevent the onset of this nasty condition.
# Take a tea towel (British English) or dish towel (American English) and roll it into a cylinder. Place it so that it supports your wrist as you mouse. You can obviously experiment with different thicknesses so that it's just the right height for you.

The best preventative action is simple wrist and finger exercise.  Here are some suggestions:
# Make a tight fist and squeeze your hand. Then open your hand and spread the fingers apart. Repeat.
# Touch one finger at a time to the middle of your palm. Repeat.
# You can buy small squeeze balls in most drug stores. Squeeze one as tightly as you can. Repeat.
It's also a very good idea to simply take a brief break every hour or so. Just stand up and walk around your desk. I personally believe this brief break in concentration also actually improves overall  productivity, but then, I now have to have a short nap every afternoon and am probably demented.

2. Eyesight
Almost every eye expert agrees that using computers may lead to eyesight problems later in life, but it's impossible to really prove this. They also disagree about the best lighting conditions, although the consensus is that the room should have at least one other source of light. What they do agree about however, is that every-now-and-then you should simply look away from the screen and re-focus on something else for a few seconds. How often? I just don't know, but it's an easy habit to get into. I like to look out my window, but then I have a worthwhile view.

It's also a very good idea to simply take a brief break every hour or so.

3. Back problems
I have no useful opinion about whether screens (and/or cell phones) emit harmful rays, but it's interesting to note that today's monitors are built to much higher safety specifications than they used to be. Prevention is clearly better than cure. But I do know that if you're expecting to spend much of your life tapping a keyboard, you really owe it to yourself to learn to type properly. If you're not lucky enough to learn this in school, take a course (some are free; many are very cheap). A good instructor will insist that you adopt a correct posture (there's more than one), and this really pays off in later life and will help to minimize potential back problems.

And get a decent chair! It needn't cost much; after years of conventional office furniture I switched to a plain solid wooden one, and noticed immediate benefits.

It's also a very good idea to simply take a brief break every hour or so.

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by chris.p on 28. June 2009 - 11:20  (24458)

If you have wrist or arm issues then one thing worth trying is a trackball. They work in a different way to a mouse and I find they are kinder to the limb for long periods of use. A trackball also works better for large scale graphics operations which is why they are used for CAD.

Also, just changing to a different method means that the arm gets some change, which is good. The two systems can be alternated.

If you try this, then get a large, optical trackball as these work best. At first you'll probably hate it because of the brain reconstruction needed, but that's probably useful as well.


by Anonymous on 15. June 2009 - 10:47  (23926)

Hi, Most of our work is done on computers or laptop computers [] , and there is usually no escape from it. It is a visually intensive task and, unfortunately, our work pressure and lifestyles do not give us the opportunity to be kind to our eyes.

1. Give your eyes a break if you spend hours in front of a computer.

"Either take a break from the screen or focus on some distant poster, photo or scene that will give your eyes' muscles of accommodation a change of focus."

Personally I try to frequently look outside the screen. While thinking I switch off the monitor or just take a walk outside.

2. Don't forget to blink your eyes!
He suggests that computer users forget to blink and get dry eyes because "we subconsciously feel that at any moment, our computer will crash and we will lose all our work".

I don't think it is a valid observation. However the idea to blink is a great one. Blinking frequently protects you from dry eyes and gives micro-rest.

3. "Many computer screens emit electromagnetic radiation that may prove harmful to your eyes if there is no ambient or background light.
Try to avoid working on your computer in complete darkness or very low light conditions.

by Anonymous on 26. June 2009 - 13:24  (24382)

I am working almost 12hours in front of the Computer.My Optalmologist advice me to take just a 5 minute break every 2 hours.And rotate my head while eyes are closed,looking outside at green trees focusing on far objects.And those all where very effective.David

My eyes are trained to hunt for spam links which is why this one has been removed

by Mike Connor on 26. June 2009 - 19:14  (24391)
by Anonymous on 26. June 2008 - 19:57  (3162)

Im 32, and feel like 22 except for when I'm at the PC.. where I feel like I've aged significantly thanks to my RSI. I've been surfing the net trying to find helpful information regarding this and how to treat/prevent it. It was surprising (pleasantly) to find an article like this here. Thank you. Hope to see more in the future. :)

by peter on 26. June 2008 - 20:34  (3164)

Trouble is, we don't really know what else to say.

"Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations."
(Monty Python's 'The Meaning of life', 1983)

Seriously, you should see a doctor about RSI. They can really help, and can stop it getting worse. Cortisone injections (painless) sometimes provide great relief.