No matter what industry you are in, the size or location of your company, chances are high that you spend the majority of your day in front of the computer. The one major downside to this is that you could injure yourself, resulting in lost time and the need for physical therapy. Do you know what the most common computer work related injuries are and how to minimize them?
The majority of injuries sustained while working with computers are not instantaneous, they happen over time. The most common form of computer related injury is the Repetitive Strain Injury, also known as RSI. Soft tissue, muscles, tendons, nerves and ligaments are all susceptible to RSI. With proper maintenance and knowledge, almost all RSIs can be prevented. If left unchecked, an RSI could lead to lost time and possibly irreparable damage.
Eye strain happens when you have overexerted your eyes. The most common symptoms include:
- pain around the eyes,
- dry eyes,
- photophobia (sensitivity to light) and
- blurred vision.
Often, severe eye strain will also cause pain or tension in the neck and shoulders. The most common causes of eye strain are poor workspace layout and sub-par lighting conditions.
The good news is that in most cases, eye strain won’t lead to permanent vision complaints, but if left unchecked it could cause productivity problems. The easiest way to prevent eye strain is to work in a space with lighting that is neither too strong or weak, and have a light source that does not create glare. It is equally important to take short breaks from the monitor. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something (not another monitor) 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
There are a number of related injuries to your posture, including: back pain, neck pain and headaches. These injuries typically come from bad posture, combined with sitting for an extended amount of time. It may not seem like you can injure yourself by sitting in a chair all day, but your muscles are not designed to stay in the same position for such a long period of time, and doing so can result in muscle pain. Poor posture at work can also lead to an increased chance of a herniated disc, commonly called a “slipped disc”.
There are a number of things you can do to minimize posture related injuries.
- Adopt a proper posture. Have a chair that pushes the small of your back out, as this will promote a more natural spinal position. Try not to cross your feet, as comfortable as it is, as doing so puts pressure on your lower back.
- Get up and move around every 20 minutes to half hour.
- Stretch. Move your joints through their normal range of motion.
- If you have kinks or muscle pain, gently massage the area with a kneading motion.
- Get up. There is a rising trend of using a standing workstation – this could be another option.
The most common type of injury to the arm is the well-known Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This mainly happens in two places: the wrist and the elbow. CTS occurs when the median nerve (one of the main nerves) is compressed. CTS in the wrist is the most common RSI, and can be a costly injury. The median nerve also passes through the elbow. If compression occurs there, it can result in an injury commonly called “tennis elbow”. Symptoms include: numbness of the hand and arm, pain and weakness in grasping.
There are a number of things you can do to prevent CTS:
- Keep your mouse and keyboard close together.
- Type and hold the mouse gently.
- Remove your hands from the mouse and keyboard when not using them.
- Take frequent breaks to move your wrists and elbows through their natural range of motion. Be careful to not over extend.
With a combination of breaks, ergonomic workplaces, and other preventative measures you and your staff will see fewer injuries and higher productivity.