Friday Feast #19: Computer Use, Musicians, and Injuries
When is the last time you warmed up or did stretching exercises before starting to work at your computer? I’m no mind reader, but I suspect most haven’t even thought about it, at least not until you have so much pain in your neck, wrist, or hands that you can’t type and end up at the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of Repetitive Strain Injury, (RSI) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), pinched nerves, or more. See TIFAQ’s Glossary for a long list of daunting possibilities that can and do occur every single day.
In my other life as a professional musician, I was taught early on to be keenly aware of how to optimally use my body to practice and perform without injury, an approach and technique that I’ve also passed on to my students. That awareness includes being mindful of muscle tension and learning to play without creating those knots in your shoulders and neck and without straining muscles or causing injuries. * That carries over into how I type at my computer keyboard, too.
I see greater potential for injuries with computer use than with musical instruments largely because of the lack of training about how to use the body when typing. When is the last time you heard a typing teacher talk about body awareness, muscle use, taking frequent breaks, or exercises to prevent injuries? Not often enough. How many people learn to type at a computer without even taking a typing class? Plenty.
Preventive Measures at Your Desk
So, before you end up in the doctor’s office or even needing surgery for CTS or RSI and potentially ending up on disability, consider reviewing your own office ergonomics to either set up or improve your workspace for better comfort and to help prevent injuries. Below is some information to help.
Set Up or Improve Your Workspace
IBM’s Healthy Computing website area utilizes helpful 3D imagery and guidance to visually see their explanations about how your workspace needs to be set up ergonomically. There are plenty of good tips here, whether new to ergonomics or not. They cover the entire workspace from top to bottom, including your chair, monitor, keyboard, desk, the floor, angles and measurements and relationships, how you should be comfortably positioned, and lots more. They also have sections on accessories, setting up your workspace, display and other vision considerations, excellent discussions about comfort and ergonomics, exercising, your work environment, and more.
In addition to IBM’s site noted above, Healthy Computing has a very helpful section on office ergonomic setup tips, including how to set up your keyboard, monitor, mouse, chair, documents, phone, lighting, and desk.
Helpful Products and Accessories
Part of an ergonomically designed office includes a well-designed adjustable ergonomic desk chair, proper lighting, and a monitor set up to avoid glare. An ergonomically designed keyboard and mouse can also make a big difference in comfort and may help reduce or prevent injuries.
Everything you need at your desk needs to be easy to reach and use, whether pen and paper, Rolodex, HTML and color charts, documents, or paper clips. Document holders can be set up to prevent neck and eye strain, too. Other accessories are also available, such as wrist pads, anti-glare monitor filters, telephone headsets, foot rests, seating and back supports and cushions, and more.
Where do you begin, and how do you know what products and accessories are truly worthwhile and what are scams? Healthy Computing’s Buyer’s Guide can help you learn about important features to look for, what’s helpful, and what’s a scam. TIFAQ also provides helpful information and links to the pros and cons of various products and accessories.
Mobile Office Ergonomics
Mobile computing has many distinct advantages with convenience and portability. There are things to watch out for, too, and Healthy Computing has written articles to help you avoid or remove common pitfalls for good laptop ergonomics, phone ergonomics, and even PDA ergonomics.
Do stretches and exercises, take frequent and regular breaks, and become aware of any muscle tension building so you can quickly diffuse it. Listen to music that helps you relax and soothes those muscles.
Below are more links to specific articles, tips, and entire websites devoted to ergonomic workspaces and injury prevention. I’ve also collected all the links above and placed them here.
Websites, Sections Devoted to Ergonomic Workspaces, Computer Injuries and Prevention
A site with information, articles, and links to resources about ergonomics, the Alexander Technique, and related.
- Healthy Computing Resource Library
Tips for preventing computer injuries, information about computer-related injuries, links to more information. By WorkPace.
- Healthy Computing (IBM)
IBM’s helpful and thorough section on ergonomic office space utilizes 3D imagery, illustration, and guidance, covering the entire workspace from top to bottom.
- MIT’s RSI Information Page
Helpful information, tutorials, software, more. By MIT.
- The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique
An entire site devoted to information and links about removing muscle tension via the Alexander Technique, whether from computer use, playing an instrument, or daily life.
- Typing Injury FAQ
An excellent educational resource about repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and prevention, resources for information, assistive products to reduce or prevent injuries, and much more. Provided by the CTD Resource Network, Inc.
- UCLA Ergonomics: Quick ErgoInfo
UCLA has provided a very helpful section on office ergonomics and injuries (eyes, neck, back, arms and wrist), and how to set up your office (back rest, chair, foot rest, input device, keyboard tray, monitor, table, wrist rest).
- Your Office
WebsiteTips.com’s Business section on ergonomic office space, setting up your office, products, and more.
- “After Ouch,” What? Changing How You Use Your Body
Helpful article about how to pay attention to your body, how to work with ergonomics. By Jesse Parker, PhD, reprinted at TIFAQ from The RSI Network - Issue 32 - October'98.
- Computer Related Repetitive Strain Injury
by Paul Marxhausen. Very helpful tutorial and information about ideal office ergonomics and computer use, preventing injuries, and plenty of resources to equipment, books, software, and related.
- Exercises you can do at your desk
Instructions and photos of simple exercises that you can do at your desk to help prevent injuries. By MIT.
- Hacking the Hand
Well done article about hand injuries and how poorly designed computer-related are for human use, causing all kinds of hand and other injuries. An interview of hand surgeon Robert Markison by Susan McCarthy, Wired.com, 3.12 - Dec 1995.
- How Habits Affect Our Functioning
Explanation of how we adapt to how certain things feel, whether good for us or not. Part of an article about the Alexander Technique.
- Preventing and Healing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & Repetitive Stress Injuries
by Ellen Serber, illustrations by Daniel Will-Harris. Helpful exercises with instructions and illustrations.
- Repetitive Strain Injuries - The Hidden Cost of Computing
Excellent article about RSI, its symptoms, treatment, and resources to more information. By Andy King, WebReference.com (May, 1997).
- Repetitive Strain Injuries: What You Absolutely Need to Know
Helpful tutorial and information by MIT.
- Stretches and Exercises
Exercises for computer users with illustrations for your arms and wrists, neck, back, and eyes. By Healthy Computing.
- Anti-glare monitor filters
A selection at amazon.com.
- Buying Guide to Hand Exercisers
A descriptive listing of a variety of hand exercises to strengthen your hands and help with RSI, CTS, and other pain.
- Computer & Desk Stretches
Book, chart, card, handout sheets, software, by stretching.com.
- Document holders
A selection from amazon.com.
A small exercise ball for the hand, often recommended by physical therapists and doctors. Created by Magister Corporation.
- Ergonomic desk chair
by Herman Miller. Award-winning, highly regarded ergonomically designed chair. Information and details at the Herman Miller site.
- Healthy Computing’s Buyer’s Guide can help you learn about important features to look for, what’s helpful, and what’s a scam.
- Ott-Lite L18332 VisionSaver Desk Organizer with Data Port
Link to amazon.com information about the Ott-Lite. There are many styles and sizes available.
- Seating and back supports and cushions
Relax the Back stores have a good variety of seating supports, neck supports, seat cushions, lumbar supports, support belts, and more. Purchase at a local store or online.
- TIFAQ also provides helpful information and links to the pros and cons of various products and accessories.
- Ville’s Ergonomy Resource
Recommendations for quite a few products and accessories, with links to more information and purchasing. Very helpful.
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