Back Pain and Computer Usage

If you’ve ever spent a long time in front of a computer, you know the hypnotized feeling that you have when you finally get up to walk around. Sitting puts stress on the body and if you sit for a long time without taking a break, this strain can take an effect on the back and neck. About 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives.

When thinking about the pain that you feel when sitting for a long period, it is good to understand the torso and its interrelated parts. The spinal column is made up of the vertebrae, the nerves (spinal cord and nerve roots) and the soft tissues surrounding these parts including disks, muscles, ligaments, and fluid. When stressed staring at a computer, arms, legs, head, neck, back and chest can experience tingling, pain, aching, burning, muscles spasm, or other discomfort that is originating in the back. These symptoms are all likely indicators of budding back or neck problems.

Most cases of back pain from computer usage are not caused by a serious condition, but from the combination of a work space being set up incorrectly and sitting in an improper position for too long. Here are some of the things people do while they are “hypnotized” by their computer: sitting for too long without stretching, sitting in a chair or position that causes bad posture, looking too far up or down to see the monitor, or having the keyboard at a harsh angle. Aches start occurring in the back and neck and even if you get up and walk around, the minute you sit down again, the problems are right back again.

Here are some prevention measures you can take so that this back pain from computer usage never occurs (or is at least reduced in severity).

  • First – Set up your work area so that it is ergonomically correct. You shouldn’t have to reach, twist or bend – especially for items that you use often.
  • Second – Be aware of what your body is doing while you sit. Don’t slump or slouch; sit up so that your vertebrae can be aligned with their proper curvature. Relax your shoulders; don’t hike them up around your ears. Try to have right angles at the ankles, knees, hips and elbows. Your elbows should be close to your side. The natural way that your wrists line up with your forearms should be the way that you type and mouse – no angles at the wrists.
  • Third – Stretch occasionally. (Give everything some attention – your jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, lower back, hips, legs, ankles and toes.) Look around occasionally and close your eyelids to give your eyes a rest. Stand up and walk around. A quick two-minute walk down the hall can clear your head too!

We all have work or studying to get done, but taking these breaks will make you more productive in the long run and maybe even keep you out of the physical therapist’s office.

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