We all anticipated that technology would make our lives easier. Computers are modern marvels that have increased the pace and productivity of work, but the human body is not designed to be sedentary. Prolonged hours of sitting and working in front of a computer screen can increase eye strain, stiffness in joints and muscles, indigestion and weight gain. Older computer users are even more susceptible to computer associated difficulties.
Eye strain is related to staring at monitor glare continuously for hours. Keeping the screen at arm’s length and wearing tinted glass may diminish problems. The Mayo Clinic suggests adopting a 20-20-20 rule: Take your eyes off the computer every 20 minutes and look at something twenty or more feet away for at least twenty seconds. You might simply close your eyes for a few minutes to give them a reboot. As for the dryness, blink often (you’ll produce more tears), and if that’s not enough, keep a bottle of lubricating eye drops around.
Neck and lower back pain is strongly related to posture; sitting upright in a chair with lumbar support, placing both feet on the floor and the top of the monitor at eye level approximates proper positioning. Laptop computers are really intended for short term use; arranging proper posture is very difficult unless you invest in a docking station or other accessories. Getting up, stretching and walking for at least a few minutes are mildly beneficial as well. Regular exercise emphasizing core muscles – yoga or Pilates anyone? – is often preventive.
Heavy use of a mouse and keyboard can result in carpal tunnel syndrome – wrist pain and stiffness. Preventive measures include setting your keyboard at a height that positions your forearms parallel to your upper legs to properly align everything; using a wrist rest and adjusting chair arms to support your forearms are further assists. Switching hands or changing to a roller ball or touch pad can also help to avoid problems.
Tablet users have their share of problems as well. Eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome are hazards for tablet users too. Tablets can be literally a pain in the neck for regular users. Tablets are so light and easy to handle that you can easily hold one on your lap or in your hand; that puts you in a bad position for your neck, shoulders, and back. Positional stress can be minimized by placing the tablet on a table, propping it at a comfortable viewing angle with a case or stand and shifting your position frequently. Texting related thumb injuries are recognized as a frequent use problem; use a keyboard for prolonged text entry. You’ll be better off if you take a break every 15 or 20 minutes too.
Mark Twain once quipped “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” Excessive internet usage can cause eating irregularities (such as skipping meals), poor personal hygiene, and sleep disturbances. Internet addiction can result in personal, familial, financial, and occupational problems that are similar to other addictions, much like compulsive gambling. Maybe Mom really was right when she told you “Too much of anything just isn’t good for you!”