Office workers now spend most of their day sitting in front a computer. Although this daily
activity may seem more like daily inactivity, long regular typing and mouse-clicking sessions can
cause muscle strain, fatigue and even more serious problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, a
typing-induced disorder of the nerves in the arm. The suggestions below can help desk jockeys to
avoid common health problems.
Staring at a computer screen leads to eye strain. Filters placed in front of the screen can help to
reduce the effects but it is important to rest frequently. Neck problems can be avoided by making
sure that what you are looking at is directly in front of you (i.e. monitor, copy holder, keyboard).
Turning your neck repeatedly to one side and for prolonged periods
- at a printer behind you or
tilting your head to hold a telephone receiver - trains your neck.
Your desk should be at the same height as your elbow; use your chair to support your back. For
most people the seat should be adjusted in such a way that the knee is slightly lower than the hip.
The mouse should be within easy reach so that you do not over-stretch repeatedly, and a wrist rest
may be used with the keyboard. Make sure that you have good lighting to prevent eye strain and
don't forget about the simple things such as adjusting the brightness and contrast controls of the
monitor. Getting up every half an hour for a few minutes will reduce joint stiffness and muscle
aches and pain. This will also allow you to work for longer periods.
Seven signs and symptoms relating to poor sitting posture:
-Neck and shoulder stiffness
-Repetitive strain injury of elbow, wrist, hand and fingers
-Low and mid-back pain
-Circulation or nerve problems in the hands
-Poor concentration and fatigue
The most important point to remember is to 'listen' to your body. If your body is not happy in the
position you place it in, then the normal warning system of the body will let you know that it is
under strain. These warning signs can be felt as joint and muscle stiffness, soreness, aches and
pain. It is common for muscle and joint stiffness to gradually build up over time.
Initially the stiffness can be relieved by a few hours' rest, but if the body is not allowed to rest
properly in the early stages, it may take days of rest to get relief.
To prevent lingering problems, exercise and correct posture are required. Treatment should be
sought if symptoms persist. Consulting an osteopath for spinal and posture assessments can be
beneficial as an osteopath is experienced in dealing with muscular and joint stiffness. By
manipulating stiff joints, tight muscles and mobilizing spinal joints, the osteopath will try and
normalize your body back to full functioning condition. Long-term management will include
advice on specific stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent recurrence of the problems.
This article was contributed by Dr. Joselito de la Cruz, osteopath at the Beijing United Family