Over the years, the traditional office hasn’t changed much. Sure, some people have standing desks and use exercise balls instead of chairs, but for the most part we see employees sitting at desks for, at least, eight hours every day. Just the thought makes some people cringe – perhaps everyone should be more concerned with this norm. After all, using a computer day in and day out can lead to a multitude of injuries, especially when you find yourself sitting in the same posture most of the time.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common injuries and, of course, what we can do differently for a healthier environment.
Whether using a laptop or desktop, most people prefer using a mouse for the comfort and ease it provides. However, a mouse that is not properly positioned can lead to elevation or prolonged bracing of the shoulder. When this happens the shoulder blade can spasm and in some cases lead to a more serious rotator cuff injury.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Another ‘mouse-related’ injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when a major nerve in the wrist is compressed. Symptoms include sensations such as tingling and numbness in the fingers and weakness and clumsiness in the hand.
Lumbar Strains and Sprains
When we sit for an extended amount of time, there is bound to be strain put on the spine, causing ligaments and joints tears as well as muscles or tendon tears. Naturally, this can cause back and even hip pain as well as swelling or tightness.
Disc injuries occur when someone sits for a prolonged period and there is an increased load on the spine. This causes sprains to the outer fibers to the discs and in more extreme cases protruding of the soft nucleus of the disc. Office workers can also get herniated discs, causing back pain, leg pain and weakness in the legs, among other symptoms.
Tennis elbow is tendonitis of the extensor tendon on the outside of the elbow caused by overuse, repetitive activity, and excessive finger movements. Tennis elbow causes pain in the elbow and forearm as well as a radiating pain up the arm and down the forearm.
Unlike the other injuries mentioned, computer screens are the direct cause. Whether using a tablet, laptop, or desktop, illuminated screens can cause eye fatigue. Side effects of looking at a screen for extended periods include headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision. This strain worsens if an individual has uncorrected vision problems such as astigmatism or farsightedness.
What to do Differently
Have you all decided you’d rather not have an office job? Hold on a moment, because there are several things that everyone can do to create a better environment and prevent common pains and injuries.
- Rearrange Your Desk
Arrange the things on your desk so everything is within reach and doesn’t cause strain when you have to reach for it. Put your computer screen at eye level so you don’t have to hunch over or crane your neck to see it well. Also, make sure your keyboard is at a comfortable level and your mouse is at a position that doesn’t cause you to put extra pressure on your shoulder.
- Fix Your Posture
Bad posture is the number one reason for computer-related injuries. As much as we’d like to lounge at our desks, it is extremely important to adhere to office ergonomics. Put your keyboard at a height that allows your elbows to rest comfortably, rest your feet flat on the floor, and consider using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse.
- Move Often
One of the worst things anyone can do is stay stationary for too long. Walking around and stretching at least every hour will help you stay active and also help with better posture. It is also a good idea to try the postural relief position every 20 minutes.
- Consider your Eyes
Staring at one particular thing for any extended amount of time can strain the eyes, so remember to look away from your computer every so often. We all know that sitting too close to a TV can be problematic and the same goes for a laptop or desktop, make sure it is not too close to your face and ensure it is at eye level. Similar to how many phones adjust the lighting for different times of day, so too can our computers. For example, Windows 10 allows you to enable ‘Night Light,’ which makes the brightness less abrasive when it’s dark out.