Is Your Computer Hurting Your Health?


Neck and back pain is on the rise as portable computers are becoming more popular than the standard desktop variety. In the excitement to buy our first personal computer and set up a home office, most of us were conscious of proper ergonomics – an appropriate chair set at the correct height, the monitor set up on phone books or actual monitor stand to raise it to accurate eye level, a keyboard and mouse that fit the natural curve of our hands, and whatever else was advertised as necessary.

Unfortunately, the convenience and portability of the laptop, notebook, netbook, and now tablet has pushed the thought of ergonomics far from our minds. And we are paying for it with pain.

Even when placed on a desk, the distance between a laptop monitor and keyboard is not sufficient for proper physical alignment. This is causing us to hold our heads at awkward angles, hunch forward at the shoulder, and leave our elbows floating in the air unsupported. But how many of us place our laptops in front of us on a desk or table? Be honest, we can usually be seen balancing the computer on our knees as we contort over it. And if you wear glasses, specifically with bifocal lenses, some of the positions needed to utilize the ultra-convenient laptop can rival those seen in Cirque du Soleil.

This can be completely comfortable and have no lasting damage – if done in small doses. However, according to an article published by UNC School of Medicine, repeated and prolonged use can lead to debilitating physical problems ranging from sore muscles to repetitive stress injuries.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons agrees, and gives the following suggestions to set up a proper computer workstation to include a standard desktop pc:

Chair: Position so that your knees, hips, and thighs are horizontal with feet rested flat on floor or footrest; seat should be padded and an inch or more wider than your hips, tapering down so that it does not touch the back of knees.

Desktop: Height should be level with elbows when seated, legs should fit comfortably underneath; keyboard should be one to two inches above thighs.

Monitor: Placement may vary slightly for each individual, but goal is to prevent eye, neck, and shoulder fatigue and strain. An arms length, anywhere from 20 to 26 inches away from face when seated; and raised or lowered so that the top of the viewing area is at eye level when looking straight ahead is usually most comfortable. Height and distance should be adjusted as needed based on individual’s vision.

Laptops, notebooks, and other portable personal computers are wonderfully convenient for checking emails, viewing funny cat videos, and doing a little shopping but are not a replacement for a solid, well-planned workstation complete with ergonomically situated desktop pc.

Your body with thank you.

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