The ‘Eyes’ have it – eye strain at work.

eyestrainHow many of us have to wear reading glasses while working at our Computer? Actually, there are millions of us that are slowly harming their vision by staring at a bright screen for hours on end. There are steps you can take to alleviate ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’ (CVS), and while they won’t allow you to ditch the spectacles, they will – if instituted early enough – allow you enjoy a much more pleasurable time at your computer keyboard.

CVS is actually part of the family of Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) that plague most computer users, and can be lessened with a complete Ergonomic make-over of your work station. Computer Vision Syndrome is a result of your eyes must staying focused on text and images at a static distance from you. In a more natural setting, our eyes would constantly adjust to focus on objects both near and far away, tracking them as either you or the object moved. It is how our eyes have evolved over the millennia as part of our Hunter/Gatherer history. The movements necessary while working are completely different than our ‘inherited, natural’ skills, and the result can be uncomfortable and lead to problems like astigmatism or nearsightedness.

Think also of how you are holding your head while working. If your overall position at your keyboard is slumped, or twisted in any way, your head may be sitting at an ‘offset’ position that is putting strain on your neck. After all, the average Human Head has a weight of 10 Pounds. Next time you have the chance to pick up a 10 pound bowling ball, or large bags of sugar or flour, feel how much that actually weighs. You neck supports your head for your entire life, but what position is it sitting at? Your brain is very good at memorizing positions for your body as a whole to interact with the world, but if you are sending a message that this is the way that you sit every single day, it won’t change your position to a better one – it will simply give you pain messages until you change it – don’t ignore those neck strains, or headaches. They are big signs that your head is at the wrong position.

Although it is tough to offer a written solution to these posture problems, if you start at the other end of your body, it will help your overall posture. Sit straight up, support your back, and ensure that your feet are flat on the floor. Look straight ahead, and ensure that your head sits on your neck squarely, looking ahead. If you can change your chair, or desk, position to achieve this, then do so. Try not to place a book or another ‘prop’ under your keyboard – that should be flat and straight, just under your fingers when your elbows are hinged at a 45 degree angle from your sides.

When sitting in this position, reach your arm out straight, and try to lightly brush the screen with your index finger. If you can place your palm on the screen, or your arm doesn’t reach, alter the depth of that distance until it’s correct. You can safely tip your eye-line down between 15 and 20 degrees to focus on the screen, but don’t move your head down to match this.

Of course, you also want to ensure that the lighting around your work station is ample to give you enough light to match the very strong white light that your computer screen emits, and you want to rest on an ongoing basis to relax and exercise your entire body – perhaps for thirty minutes every three hours. You should also be looking for a comfortable and ergonomic keyboard to ensure that you are working in a stress-free and comfortable way.

Remember that Repetitive Stress Injuries mean more than arm and shoulder pain and injury, so get into the habit of working in a comfortable position – especially where your head and eyes are concerned.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Are you a Sufferer?

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For millions of people, working, playing and communicating on a computer keyboard is a daily reality. With this work comes a specific set of possibly painful symptoms – especially if you aren’t working in an comfortable position. Many times we hear of someone that is “suffering from Carpal Tunnel.”, and it is understood that this was because of ‘too much typing’, but how do you know if those wrist and hand aches and pains are due to this well-known complaint, and what can you do to ease the pain or stop getting it at all?

What is Carpal Tunnel syndrome?

The human hands and wrists have many nerves, joints, and muscles that allow them to turn and work in different positions. How do we know when we are performing actions that can cause something as serious as this?

What sets CTS apart from other, less serious, complaints is stress or damage to the Median Nerve. This runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, and becomes pressed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and, and controls impulses to some of the small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand, which houses the median nerve and tendons. It is stiff to offer support to the nerve and, when a sufferer’s median nerve swells, the tunnel narrows and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm.

How to tell if you have Carpal Tunnel syndrome?

Symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the thumb and the index and middle fingers. Your fingers may feel useless and swollen, even though little or no swelling is apparent. These symptoms often first appear in one or both hands during the night, when your flexed wrists are relaxed.

As symptoms worsen, you may feel this tingling during the day. You may find it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. In chronic or untreated cases, people are unable to tell between hot and cold by touch.

How is Carpal Tunnel syndrome caused?

The condition is often the result of a number of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the Carpal Tunnel, rather than a problem with the nerve itself. You may have a Carpal Tunnel that is smaller than others. More common, though, is a trauma or injury to the wrist that cause swelling, such as sprain or fracture; work stress where repeated tasks in uncomfortable positions causes the nerve to rub on the interior wall of the tunnel. Writer’s cramp may also be brought on by repetitive activity, but this is not necessarily a CT injury.

Can Carpal Tunnel syndrome be prevented?

At the workplace, workers can do on-the-job conditioning, perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, and wear splints to keep wrists straight, but correct posture and wrist position is the most important. Ensuring that your wrists and palms maintain a natural position during working, and other typing, hours is the major proven way to ensure that you protect our wrists, so if you type for multiple hours, make sure that your wrists and hands are relaxed, supported and neutral.