If you might spend more than 6 hours per day sitting in front of a computer either for work or pleasure, then it is a high time to self-educate on relevant health-related problems and solutions to be taken.
Regular computer use could be the source of significant health depression due to:
- Prolonged sitting position which causes strain in muscles, nerves and blood vessels;
- Poor posture triggering bone and organ displacements as well as bad blood flow;
- Inappropriate working conditions and environment, including inappropriately adjusted computer/chair/table position, a flickering screen glare and poor eating habits affecting our metabolic reactions and relevant health dysfunctions;
- Lack of face-to-face human interaction inclining oneself to cyber addiction, depression as well as psychosomatic reactions.
Fortunately, preventive measures as well as an initial treatment of all the health issues caused by a computer use could be taken on a daily basis, including easy-to-do office exercises.
Health Issues Caused by Computer Use
A sedentary way of life spent in front of a computer screen causes many health problems. The welcome news is that anyone could perform preventive measures to get rid of the symptoms and avoid the diseases caused by prolonged sitting and computer screen glare. Let’s begin by learning all the risks:
1. Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain
These are common problems occurring due to sedentary way of life. If to investigate the background causes of neck, shoulder and back pain (sometimes even leg pain) of white-collars, poor muscle tone, sandwiched nerves, and poor blood circulation are the most widely spread ones. For example, weak spine muscles could lead to vertebral displacements, which in turn might clench nerves or blood vessels causing terrible back pain and other health issues.
2. Computer Vision Syndrome
CVS or Digital Eye Strain is not one specific eye problem. This health problem encompasses a whole range of eye strain and pain issues experienced by computer users: double vision, irritated red eyes, wet or dry eyes, etc. The symptoms mentioned could be caused by poor lighting, a digital screen glare, improper viewing distances, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problems, a combination of the factors (American Optometric Association [AOA], n.d.).
3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, USA, gives the following description: carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist (NINDS Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Information Page, 2016).
Namely, a painful progressive condition caused by the compression of a key nerve in a wrist is another health issue caused by prolonged computer use, data-entry personnel being at a great risk of acquiring it.
4. Repetitive Strain Injury
RSI is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. The condition mostly affects parts of the upper body: forearms and elbows, wrists and hands, neck and shoulders (National Health Service [NHS], 2016).
5. Metabolic Disorders
Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic physician and New York Times bestselling author, suggests that prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain and associated biochemical changes, such as alterations in hormones, metabolic dysfunction, leptin dysfunction, and inflammation – all of which could promote cancer (Mercola, 2015).
A simple example of a relevant metabolic disorder could be explained by the following logical chain: prolonged sitting causes mushy abdominal muscles, these in turn lead to varied stomach problems triggering obesity, which prevents from proper breathing and triggers other issues.
6. Heart Diseases
Sedentary lifestyle with its lack of physical activity depresses our muscles. Weak muscles burn less fat. Relevantly, blood flows more sluggishly, allowing fat acids to clog easily the heart vessels. When our body’s need for oxygen transmitted with blood is not being met, apart from minor problems (e.g. occasional arrhythmia), lethal consequences might happen (heart attack and stroke).
7. Brain Blood Circulation Loss
Our brain metabolism might dysfunction due to sedentary way of life. The brain of a healthy individual receives 15% of cardiac blood output and uses 20% of total body oxygen and 25% of total body glucose (Zauner, & Muizelaar, 1997). Accordingly, blood pressure loss across cerebral circulation possibly triggered by heart diseases or other reasons of bad blood flow leads to neurotransmitters’ dysfunction, which are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. This imbalance can also cause headaches, affect sleep and mood, as well as cause adverse health problems.
8. Leg Degeneration
Legs might also suffer from prolonged sitting. Varicose veins and blood clots could be caused by poor blood circulation in legs. Moreover, weak bones and even hip problems could be the results of poor motion and sedentary habits. All these affect our overall sustaining power and might lead to often fractures when falling.
9. Cyber Addiction
This is a psychological disorder connected with the computer use addiction. Our cognitive abilities decrease, if every single activity is performed through the Internet: shopping, banking, socializing, etc. What is more, cyber addicted people experience a decrease in concentration and focus when doing work off the computer, which makes it very uncomfortable and even dangerous for the society they interact in.
Mental stresses and constant work overloads lead to depressions of the office staff. When the deadline for a project is close, it gets hard to take a break from computer work routine, which involves mental stress. If no preventive measures for improving one’s spirit condition are taken, the rising depression might also cause physical harm.
Ways to Relieve the Symptoms and Prevent the Diseases
It is never late to start caring about yourself! Whether you are an office employee or just use your PC on a daily basis for education or pleasure for prolonged time, the below mentioned ways of preventing computer use problems might be very handy:
1. Back, Neck and Shoulders Strain and Pain Minimization
To minimize pain and strain in your back, neck and shoulders after prolonged sitting, the following measures are required:
- Repeated physical exercises,
- Properly adjusted working environment,
- Proper seating posture,
- Regular breaks.
UCLA Spine Center highlights that “No matter how comfortable you are at your desk, prolonged, static posture is not good for your back. Try to remember to stand, stretch and walk at least a minute or two every half hour… ” (Ergonomics for Prolonged Sitting, n.d.).
2. Overcome Computer Vision Syndrome
It’s not so difficult to arrange appropriate working conditions to prevent CVS. According to already mentioned American Optometric Association, the actions to be taken are:
- distribute light with a desk lamp;
- put a monitor glare filter,
- position your monitor appropriately – slightly below eye level, about 20 to 28 inches away from the face;
- you shouldn’t strain your eyes to see the screen;
- look away from the screen every 20 min (American Optometric Association [AOA], n.d.).
3. Prevent / Decrease Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
The initial treatment of CTS, according to American National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, generally involves resting the affected hand and wrist (NINDS Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Information Page, 2016). Repeated but light exercises might help as preventive measures. For example, a compressed key nerve in your wrist could be prevented by circular wrist movements performed on repeated occasions during a working day.
4. Decrease Repetitive Strain Injury
It is a fact that an inappropriate posture or prolonged activities performed in an awkward position increase the risk of acquiring a strain in muscles or nerves. The first step in preventing the strain injury (which might be pre-diagnosed based on the repetitive pain in muscles or tendons) is to identify and modify the task or activity that is causing the symptoms (National Health Service [NHS], 2016). Breaks from same type activities also help (e.g.walking to your colleague’s desk instead of sending a message), as well as seating position posture improvement.
5. Improve Metabolism
Our metabolic ability is the basis for digestion, immunity and overall physical strengths. To improve three main purposes of metabolism – the conversion of food to energy to run cellular processes, the conversion of food to building materials for proteins/lipids/nucleic acids, and the elimination of intracellular wastes – it is advisable by doctors to follow five easy rules when working in-office:
- Performing easy physical exercises on a regular basis,
- Regular healthy food eating,
- Regular water or tea drinking,
- Fresh air breathing,
- Working in a comfortably adjusted environment, including good posture facilities.
6. Heart Stresses Avoidance
It has been estimated that 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education, as highlighted by American Heart Association (Heart Disease Statistics at a Glance, n.d.). Cardiovascular therapy includes healthy and regular eating, balanced physical activity and regular oxygen intake, as well as avoidance of tobacco and extreme heat or cold temperatures, limited alcohol intake, and mental health maintenance. Considering office employees, occasional meditation, regular tea breaks combined with stairs instead of elevator / fruit instead of cigarette choices might serve as a relevant therapy.
7. Brain Normal Blood Circulation Maintenance
Our brain controls all physical, chemical and mental functions of our bodies. That is why, any brain metabolism risks should be minimized right in advance. As cited by National Center for Biotechnology Information, the importance of auto-regulation of cerebral blood flow that is ensured by constant blood supply and water homeostasis (Cipolla, 2009). To support these processes, one should maintain blood pressure and strengthen blood vessels by balanced physical activities, proper healthy food diet and fresh air oxygenation.
8. Leg Power Generation
Not to let our leg muscles to degenerate, regular physical activities should be performed on a daily basis. In one of the Forbes journal articles, it is mentioned that eight hours of sitting in an office plus sedentary evening recreation like watching TV – is a recipe for ruin. A survey performed by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states that nearly 50% of adults in the U.S. admit they do not engage in the suggested 30 minutes, five days a week of moderate physical activity or the suggested 20 minutes, three times a week of vigorous activity (How much physical activity do adults need, n.d).
9. Winning Cyber Addiction
The first step to win the cyber addiction is to get aware of how much time is really being spent on computer distractive activities like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Computer monitoring software that tracks the Internet and software use might get very handy in analyzing one’s computer use habits. When the data is received, there should be applied some way outs of the addiction. Among others, simple face-to-face human interaction cures the case, as well as fresh air walks and paper publications reading.
10. Overcome Depression
Psychologists suggest the low mood state might affect physical body functions, depressed people experiencing: appetite loss or overeating, concentrating or remembering problems, insomnia or excessive sleeping, fatigue, digestive problems, reduced energy level and many others. To prevent both physical and mental health stresses, – mental therapy, meditation, and spiritual exercises could be performed. Individual approach is advisable here: listen to your favorite music, watch or read humorous stuff, or even perform yoga exercises as a short break to your working routine!
Examples of Easy Office Remedies
Why don’t some people invest even minimal efforts in preventing computer use and sedentary lifestyle health problems? The answer is quite clear: we’re human beings who are sometimes lazy or even unmindful about regular exercises, and… sometimes too stressed to care about ourselves.
Here are some examples of these simple exercises suitable for offices, – developed to maintain and improve your health while working with a computer:
1. Easy physical exercises:
Example 1 – According to physicians, the right posture cures 70% of health problems caused by long sitting. The rule “90-90-90 degrees of body posture while sitting in front of a computer” is the key to a healthy body!
Example 2 – To cure down back problems: sit upright, grasp the left knee, lift left leg off the floor, bend forward (curling the back), bring your nose toward the knee. Repeat 3 – 5 times. Repeat with right leg.
2. Mental Stress Minimization:
Example 1 – Relaxing (or meditating) just three times per day, five minutes each time, will significantly harmonize your inner state. All you need, is to simply sit down comfortably and relax observing calming pictures of nature.
Example 2 – Release stress and generate some energy with a quick-seated dance when no one is looking while having a few minutes break of listening to your favorite music!
3. Natural Advice for Computer Use Harm Decrease:
Example 1 – When sitting for a long time in front of a computer, muscles burn less fat and blood flows sluggishly, allowing fat acids to more easily clog the heart. Allow fresh air into the room to provide your body with oxygen.
Example 2 – Decrease in concentration and focus when doing hourly work on a computer is treated by a short walk to your canteen for a cup of green tea or an apple.
If one does not care about preventing sedentary life problems OR s/he simply forgets to perform regular physical or mental exercises to overcome health issues, it may affect the overall quality of life. This might include enumerated health problems, consequent relationships issues and low work performance abilities (decreased productivity and increased number of professional errors caused by physical fatigue and health stresses). That is why, to live a full life, do not forget to take care about yourselves!
American Heart Association. (n.d.). Heart Disease Statistics at a Glance.
American Optometric Association. (n.d.). Computer Vision Syndrome.
Cipolla, M.J. (2009). The Cerebral Circulation. In Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences (Ed.).
Mercola, J. (2015). Here’s What Sitting Too Long Does to Your Body.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.). How much physical activity do adults need?
National Health Service. (2016). Repetitive strain injury.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2016). NINDS Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Information Page.
UCLA Spine Center. (n.d.). Ergonomics for Prolonged Sitting.
Zauner, A., & Muizelaar J.P. (1997). Brain Metabolism and Cerebral Blood Flow. In Chapman & Hall (Ed.).