Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Avoiding computer-related health problems

If you work on a computer for more than an hour a day, you need to be careful about mainly three things - your eyes, your hands and your back.

Health risk: Computer vision syndrome. The most common symptoms are: eye fatigue, dry eyes, burning eyes, light sensitivity, blurred vision, headaches.

* Position your monitor so there is no glare in your eyes — either direct, or reflected in the computer screen
* Adjust the screen brightness, contrast and colour to comfortable levels
* Rest your eyes every 30 minutes
* Refocus your eyes occasionally by looking at a distant object
* The distance from your eyes to the monitor should be 18 to 30 inches
* The top of the screen should be slightly below eye level
* Use an anti-glare screen
* When staring at a computer, people blink less frequently — about five times less than normal, according to studies. Look away often to induce blinking, or close your eyes briefly from time to time

Hands and wrists
Health risk: Repetitive stress syndrome. The common symptoms are tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness or burning in the hands, wrists, fingers, forearms, or elbows; tingling, coldness, or numbness in the hands; clumsy or awkward hands.

* Your keyboard should be at or slightly below elbow height (90 to 110 degrees)
* Your elbows should be close to your body, with your forearms relaxed
* Your wrists should not be extended, flexed or bent to either side
* Tilt your keyboard so that the front of the keyboard is higher than the back. Most keyboards have tiny pullout stands that help you do this
* Use the keyboard lightly. Don’t hammer it
* Use two hands to perform double-key operations like Ctrl-C or Alt-F
* Keep your mouse near and at the same level as your keyboard
* Avoid holding your mouse tightly and for prolonged periods
* Most important — don’t indulge in computer games that require long periods of intense keyboard or mouse activity

Back and shoulders
Health risk: Back and shoulder pain

* Choose a comfortable chair that provides back support. Rather than an upright position, recline at a 100- or 110-degree angle. Adjust the lumbar support so it conforms to the curve in the small of your back
* Keep your head and neck as straight as possible
* Avoid overreaching
* Chair arms should be used only if they do not obstruct your sitting position and posture
* Position your monitor, keyboard and chair in a straight line
* Your shoulder and neck muscles should be relaxed. Your upper arms should hang comfortably at your sides
* Your thighs should be parallel to the floor

More tips

* Break-up activities that require repetition
* Use a document holder to view documents and keep the holder near your monitor
* Your work surface should be large enough to accommodate computer equipment and work materials
* Keep frequently used items within easy reach
* Do not cradle your phone between your shoulder and chin. Use a headset if you use the phone and computer at the same time often
* Maintain a comfortable temperature in your work area

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