Working for long periods in front of a computer is stressful to your body, especially when it’s included to your daily life activities. It is very easy to end up with neck pain, hand, wrist and finger pain, elbow pain, shoulder pain and back pain along with eye problems. Complications due to computer usage can be prevented by working in an ergonomically designed work station, maintaining good posture and regular exercises.

Concentrating on the workplace ergonomics part; your work station mostly includes the computer monitor along with its other components assembled in a desk and the sitting arrangement. A good chair is an essential element of a computer workstation. The chair not only provides necessary support to the buttocks and lower limbs but also support the back and arms, while reducing exposures to awkward postures, contact stress, and forceful exertions. Use a chair with a backrest that is easily adjustable and able to support the back in a variety of seated postures. A height adjustable lumbar support should be there to provide support and maintain the natural curvature of the spine.

Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle. Use adjustable armrests to support your forearm, allow your upper arm to remain close to your torso and keeps the shoulders relaxed. Armrests should be large enough to support most of your forearms. Height adjustable seat is appropriate to support the legs and feet on the ground.  Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees equal to or slightly lower than your hips. Incorrect positioning of the screen, keyboard and mouse can also result in bad postures. Adjust them so that your neck is in a neutral, relaxed position. The monitor should be at an arm's distance from your body and the center of the screen should be at the level of your eyes, directly in front of you and above the keyboard. Position the keyboard and mouse directly in front of you. Adjust their height so that your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are in a slightly open position (90° to 120°), and your wrists and hands are straight and relaxed.

Maintaining a good posture while working on a computer can prevent these conditions. Sitting at the computer desk for prolonged periods can increase muscle stress and put pressure on the spinal discs. Most people will slouch down onto the chair, or they will lean forward towards the desk and hunch their shoulders and protrude there chin. This posture can stretch your spinal ligaments and strain the whole spine. So you should be aware of how you sit while working.  Push your hips as far back as it can go in the chair and keep your spine straight so your back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support.

Ideal Sitting Posture

Thighs and hips should generally be parallel to the floor and keep your knees at about same height as the hips and with your feet slightly forward. Your head should be levelled so that your ears are in line with your shoulders. Keep your shoulders relaxed and in line with hips. Hands, wrists, and forearms are to be kept straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor. Your upper arms kept relaxed and close to body while elbows stay close to body and at a 90o - 100o  angle when you place your hands on your desk. Your wrist should be in neutral position so that the hands are in straight lines with lower arms.

Specific exercises not only prevent all those conditions but also cure them. You should take a break every after 30 minutes or so and perform these exercises which will take just 5 minutes and also remember the 20/20 rule in which after every after 20 minutes of working take your eye off of the computer monitor for 20 seconds.

So, you can start with your neck ROM exercises. For this you have to sit keeping your spine straight. Now extend (bend backward) your neck slowly as much as you can and come back to the starting position; then flex (bend forward) your neck and come back to neutral position. Repeat this for 5 times. Now from the neutral position, move your head to look towards one shoulder, then come back to the starting position and look towards the opposite shoulder and repeat this for 5 times. Now from the neutral position, bend your neck in such a way that your ear moves towards the shoulder and come back to the neutral position; then do the same thing to your opposite side and repeat for 5 times. The other important exercise for neck is static neck exercises which you should practice at your home regularly at least twice daily. 

Neck ROM Exercises

Once you finish with your neck; shrug your shoulders (shoulder shrugging exercise) by lifting them to your ears for 5 seconds and returning to the relaxed position. Repeat this for 5 times. Now hang your upper limb on the side of your body and rotate (moving in a circle) your shoulders for 10 times clockwise and 10 times anti-clockwise.  

Shoulder Circomduction

Once you have done with your shoulder, extend an arm in front of you, making sure the elbow is completely straight. With your palm down, take the opposite hand and bend the hand down toward the floor. Then turn the palm up, and stretch the hand up toward your body. This stretches the forearm, wrist and hand muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times each.

Wrist and Hand Stretching 

Now clench your fists and rotate your wrists in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction for 5 times with an outstretched hand.

Wrist Raoation Exercise     

Next separate and straighten your fingers until tension of a stretch is felt and hold for 3 seconds, now relax them and then clench your fists and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat this for 5 times. (See image) 

Lastly, clasp your fingers behind your neck and bend your spine backward. Hold that position for 5 seconds and come back to the neutral position. Repeat this for 5 times.

Now rotate your spine to either side for 5 times. 

These are some of the exercises which you can perform while sitting on your desk but at home you should do static neck exercises and back extension exercises regularly.
The following exercises if performed regularly can prevent a series of musculoskeletal problems, stress injury and the likes. One also has to realise the importance of an ergonomical set-up in ones office or home. Hence a combination of good posture and exercises along with an ergonomically designed workstation will be helpful to cope up with your physical stress.


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