5 Physical Problems From Computer Use & How to Avoid Them

Physical Problems From Computer Use

Today almost everyone has a computer or smart phone, or both. That includes the younger generation, who are starting to grow up with technology as a part of their life from birth. With technology being so new it’s hard to tell what the long term effects of using it might be. Though we hear rumours about cellphone rays causing cancer, there are more short term physical effects of using computers that we can already see taking affect. Back pain, eye strain, headaches, and more are all caused by computers, but luckily there are also easy ways to avoid these pains and strains that not enough people know about.

Physical Problems From Computer Use

Bad Posture and Back Pain

Back pain is one of the leading causes of sick days and long term health problems across the modern world, and it all comes down to sitting at the computer. It’s been a fact for many years now that sitting for long periods of time is bad for posture and back pain. This was established even before the computer, when workers were sitting at desks writing on paper. Sitting strains muscles and ligaments in the back and even more so when you are sitting in an uncomfortable chair, like in many office work environments. So, it’s easy to see why sitting a computer desk would be even more detrimental to your spine, as people sit completely still and only move their fingers on the keyboard.

What to do about it:
– The computer should be at eye level or slightly lower
– Your arms should be by your side with your elbows bent and forearms parallel to the floor
– Your feet should rest flat on the floor
– Use an ergonomic chair that supports your spine’s natural curve

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck and shoulder pain go hand in hand with back pain, as any discomfort of the spine will reach all the way up the back into your neck. Holding your neck rigid while staring at a computer for hours can strain muscles and tendons, and cause pain and discomfort. You’ve probably had a stick neck a few times before, maybe when you woke up in the morning. You might not realize it, but that could be from holding your neck at an awkward angle the day before while using the computer. I know I’ve done it a few too many times.

What to do about it:
– Every so often you should stand and stretch your back and do neck rotations
– Ensure that you’re not holding your neck in a strange position
– If your chair is high enough, rest your head and neck against it

Eye Strain & Headaches

Whether you know it or not, when you are staring at the computer screen for long periods of time you aren’t blinking as often as you should. Studies show that eye strain and discomfort occurs in at least 50 percent of all computer workers, and those numbers are only growing with time. You’ve probably dealt with minor eye strain at least a few times before if you use the computer often, but luckily it is fairly easy to deal with. I had to learn this the hard way, as I started to get blurred vision and headaches after working on the computer for hours at time. I thought about getting prescription computer glasses (since I kind of want glasses anyways) but my eye doctor told me they really wouldn’t solve any of my problems.

What to do about it:
– The rule is that you should take a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds
– Blink regularly
– There is an app for Macs that I use called Time Out Free that can remind you to take regular breaks
– Try to sit in natural light, but make sure the sunlight isn’t reflecting on your screen

Nearsightedness

In recent studies, nearsightedness has been linked to prolonged use of computers. People who go through higher education and use computers more often have an almost double change of developing nearsightedness than those who do not. Still, we have no measure of the effects of computer use on the visual development of children. If you don’t wear glasses or have any existing vision problems, you probably haven’t had to deal with nearsightedness. But remember, if you don’t care for your eyes, it is something that can develop over many years of eye strain.

What to do about it:
– Avoiding eye strain using the techniques above will help fight off nearsightedness
– Have regular eye exams to monitor vision health

Carpal Tunnel

Though there is some doubt today whether there is really a relation between computers and carpal tunnel, many still believe there is. The wrists are the joints most effected by computer use, and it makes sense that computer use would cause this strain. Constantly having your wrists sitting at an awkward angle and only using the muscles in your hands and fingers. You’ve probably felt this strain in your hands and fingers after typing on the computer for a long time, or in the fingers of your dominant hand after scrolling on your smart phone for too long. I know I definitely feel it, and though sometimes just stretching out my hands helps, sometimes I have to take a break all together.

What to do about it:
– Make sure your arms should be by your side with your elbows bent and forearms parallel to the floor
– Take time to stretch and rotate your wrists and fingers periodically

Though pains and aches from using a computer are common, they are also easy to avoid if you know how. Sitting in a proper position, taking regular breaks, and stretching out the vulnerable parts of your body will ensure that you never suffer any long term effects or short term pains form computer use.

How do you stay comfortable when using the computer?

  • Ugh, the past few weeks I’ve been working harder than usually and man I’ve felt it on my body in the evening :(

    These are some great tips, though remembering to do these activities is a different matter… Having an app to remind you sure helps.

    I remember there was a Windows program called Work Rave I used to use.
    I use a Pomodoro timer and try to use the built in 5-min breaks to do it.

    • You can definitely feel it when you’ve been working too hard, even though using the computer doesn’t seem strenuous when you’re doing it! I swear by the Time Out App that comes up on my screen every 20 minutes to remind me to take a blinking break.

  • Lauren

    I definitely need to remember to take a break away from my screen every once in a while – my eyes always feel strained! One other thing that helped me was raising my monitors… when they were too low, it also caused neck strain and headaches.

    • That’s so true! the height of the monitor is vital and can cause a lot of problems if it’s not in the right place. Try the Time Out app for your eyes! I use it and it reminds me every 20 minutes to take a blinking break.