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How to Stay Healthy and Well in the World of Computers

By Ann Dahl, OTR, CWC

The use of computers and laptops continues to skyrocket and with the increased use we see increased impact onto the human body for people of all ages from adults to children. Prolonged exposure to awkward work positions, forceful or repetitive motions, long work/school hours and extended personal time on electronic devices once your work hours are complete all contribute to the seed bed for repetitive motion injuries. Numbness and tingling, muscle pain, joint stiffness and weakness are all common symptoms. In addition, the visual and cognitive load is high with increased screen time. Symptoms arise from an imbalance of many contributing factors.

Occupational Therapists are experts at analyzing activity and performing detailed task analysis. OT’s take a holistic approach considering the physical, cognitive, social, organizational and environmental factors when assessing injuries or designing preventative programs. Optimizing your function and ability to perform the task with ease and least effort is always the goal!
Taking into consideration the anatomy, physiology, tools, environment, equipment, behaviors and activity requirements sets the stage for the appropriate intervention and plan for change or modification. Here is a list of the top ten most important aspects in working with computers and electronic devices. Stay Well!

1. Maintain and support a neutral posture in the spine by supporting the low back
2. Take time to set up your work station or area that you are working in so that it fits you! (Not someone else) know how to adjust your work station!
3. Work for 30 minutes at a time and then take a 5-minute break. Get up and move/stretch or change your task so that you are using different muscles!
4. Every 20 minutes look away from the screen at an object about 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds! Give your eyes some rest. They were originally designed for distance vision. Not near vision like computers and screens too close to the face.
5. Keep your elbows comfortably close to the body with the elbow bent about 90 degrees.
6. Do not rest your wrists and palms on an edge of computer/keyboard/desk edge
7. Use a hands-free headset when talking on the phone
8. Adjust the position of your display screen so that it does not reflect light from a window or overhead lights
9. When working with documents use a document holder that positions them at the same height and distance as your computer screen.
10. Keep your screen at a comfortable distance so that you do not have to lean in and strain your neck.

Here’s a helpful YouTube video on laptop ergonomics.


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