Too much time at the computer can leave one vulnerable to a host of ailments. Here are tips on how to stay safe.

Do you often complain about headache, back or neck pain after prolonged sessions on the computer? Does your Facebook session usually leave you with teary and red eyes? If your answer is ‘yes’, then it’s time to wake up. Excessive use of computers can lead to major damage of the body, sometimes beyond repair.

Prolonged working hours, wrong sitting posture and constant keyboard use leads not only to strain in the eyes but also to severe nerve and bone injuries. Motion is the lotion for the joints. Movement and activity circulate joint fluid and promotes cartilage health and bone strength. Sitting for more than four hours daily combined with poor posture can lead to degenerative joints, which affects knees, hips and spine.

Similarly working on a computer for hours together can cause inflammation of tendons, nerve sheaths and ligaments and damage to soft body tissues. Though this depends on the individual’s sensitivity to the repeated movements involved in a particular activity the effects can even be disabling.

One of the major nerve injuries caused due to excessive computer use is repetitive strain injury (a stressed limb caused by a repeated movement done the wrong way). One example is pain in the wrist because of excess keyboard use. Tendinitis and Carpal tunnel syndrome are other major problems caused by excessive strain on the nerves.

Tendinitis refers to the inflammation or irritation and swelling of a tendon affecting the wrist, elbow, heel and shoulder. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when pressure on the median nerve leads to numbness, tingling, weakness or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.

The key to preventing or reducing computer-related injuries involves educating users on taking steps like positioning the monitor and keyboard correctly and adjusting their own posture to bring down the danger of inflammation. The damage is less when using a desktop compared to a laptop.

While using a desktop, make sure that the wrist is kept straight while typing as bending narrows the space available for the tendon and nerves and puts pressure on them. The elbow should be positioned at approximately 90°.

Putting the monitor, mouse and any paper document one may be copying from in the correct position can reduce the likelihood of neck and shoulder pain or stiffness. Cradling the phone to one’s ear while typing also contributes to neck and shoulder pain.

The furniture should be based on ergonomic design. That means the chair’s back rest should end above shoulder level. Also, the chair should have the facility to adjust height and lumbar support too. An unsuitable chair also contributes to poor posture, such as slouching that puts pressure on the spine.

The height of the chair should allow one to rest the feet on the floor with knees bent at a 90° degree angle. While typing, arms should also bend at 90°. While resting the back the angle should be at 110° and slightly tilted back.

Prolonged use of computers can also cause strain, fatigue, irritation in the eyes and blurred vision. These symptoms are collectively called Computer Vision Syndrome.

There are some simple steps to avoid this problem. Blink frequently to keep the eyes hydrated as constant staring at the screen can lead to severe dryness. Besides, keep eyes closed for 5-10 minutes every one hour to reinforce the tear film. Reducing the glare of the monitor also helps. Make sure you do not sit too close to the computer.

Moreover, working with a light screen background with dark typefaces is easiest on the eyes. It is great to take breaks by looking away from the screen for ten seconds and standing up every half an hour to do other work while giving the eyes a rest.

Quick tips

Keep the wrist straight while typing and the elbow at a 90° angle

Don’t cradle the phone on one shoulder while typing

Sit up straight while working; don’t slouch or lean forward too long

Blink frequently to prevent dryness in the eye

Close your eyes for at least 5 minutes every hour

Look away from the screen every 10 seconds to give your eyes a break