Back and Neck Care for Computer Users
The workhorse of the modern workplace may also be at the root of many cases of neck and back strain. It’s the ever-present computer terminal, which makes it possible to do one’s job while sitting still for hours on end.
More than half of American workers sits at a desk in an office. And more than 75% of people who work at a computer terminal experience back strain, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Sitting for long periods puts great pressure on the muscles that hold your back rigid. If your desk chair offers little support, back pain can occur. Neck muscles can also become sore from holding your head still for long periods, from tilting your head to view the terminal, or from cradling a telephone between your ear and shoulders.
Correcting these problems, and preventing them in the first place, is fairly simple. To prevent neck and shoulder strain, make sure the top of the computer screen is at or just below eye level. If you spend a lot of time on the telephone, use a headset to keep your head in a comfortable position.
To prevent back pain, sit with your back straight. Don’t slump. Adjust the height of the chair so you can keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees level with your hips.
Throughout the day, take short breaks and do these simple exercises to loosen the muscles that are involved:
- Tuck your chin down and gently roll your head from side to side for a few minutes.
- Raise your hands and forearms to eye-level; then push your arms back so your shoulder blades squeeze together.
- Hold, relax, then repeat.
- Standing or sitting, drop your arms to your sides; shake them for several seconds, relax, and then repeat.
- Extend your arms out in front of you; rotate them to make the backs of your hands touch each other and hold for several seconds.
- With arms extended, rotate them so your palms face upward; hold for several seconds, relax, repeat
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