You and Your Computer 2

13 July 2008, by A. Cedilla
Part 2 of a series

Pop quiz: Count yourself, your circle of family, friends and co-workers. How many of you spend significant time on your computers?

Done? Now, how many of you say anything about headaches, or dry eyes?

Research shows that roughly 70% of the people who work with computers have problems with their vision. That breaks down to 7 out of 10 people. Does this figure agree with your findings?

Computing is an overwhelmingly visual media and it’s because of this that so many people suffer from visual fatigue and computer vision syndrome . Most studies show that 70-90% of computer workers show symptoms of vision-related problems, bought on by a combination of poor workplace conditions individual visual problems, and improper work habits.

For example, in a normal setting people normally blink around 17-22 times per minute. On the computer, they slow down to 4 blinks a minute. The normal flow of tears that lubricate your eyeballs and wash out any possible irritant is compromised. Result: Dry, irritated “sandy” eyes.

And that’s not all!

Have you ever seen little kids crouch over something of interest and bend down even lower? Adults do it too, in a more dignified manner. We hunch towards the focus point and lead with our head. Humans evolved this way. We’re sight-hunters. But millions of years of evolution have a rather painful effect when adapting to today’s demands.

See, to ease the strain bought on by focusing, we change our posture. We lean forward, lean back, cock our heads, and tilt them back — all the while forgetting to release the tension in the supporting muscles. This leads to intense pain in our trapezius once we get up and away from our desks. And since everything’s connected (the shifting, straining, hunching, non-blinking) the lower back gets pulled in and complains as well.

Interesting data

In googling for the answer to “What is the average weight of a human head?” we received these responses:

  • “An adult human cadaver head cut off around vertebra C3, with no hair, weighs somewhere between 4.5 and 5 kg, constituting around 8% of the whole body mass.”
  • It weighs about 5 kilograms, or 12 pounds.

So you’d get an idea of where this is going, “Pros (professional bowlers) almost always use a 16 pound bowling ball. In rare cases, when a pro has an injury to their wrist or arm/shoulder, they will use a 15 pound ball.”

Think of it. All your muscles working together, stomach girdle to hold you upright, working in concert with your back and your neck muscles, to hold up a bowling ball.

  • If you’re in shape, that a plus.
  • If you’re in shape and you slouch, that’s not.
  • If you’re not in shape and you slouch — do something about it. It’s not the computer. It’s you.The computer can’t move by itself. And, it doesn’t hurt.

Here are a few tips to deal with eyestrain:

Blink. Blink more: Blinking gives your eyes for a short time, and it also cleans and lubricates the surface of your eyes to maintain clear vision. Use artificial tears if you need them.

Breathe. Breathe deeply: When you”re all focused and tense in front of the monitor, remember not to hold your breath. Oxygen deprivation can impair your judgement; make you feel woozy, drained or cranky weakening your brainstorm to a brainfart. Plus, tensing up like that for long periods is a major pain in the lower back. Sit properly and take good, regular breaths.

Have a break: Haves you tested the software we recommended in part one? Use the alarm on your cell phone to sub for an egg-timer. Be creative.

Have your eyes checked: There may be a deeper issue to your condition other than improper use of the monitor.

Change your set-up: After you get your eyes checked, you may have to deal with things differently. Check out anti-glare screens, different lighting, or higher refresh rates on your CRT monitor. Change the settings to enlarge the font size on your screen.

Now for back pain:

Aside from the obvious — consult a qualified physician, exercise, exercise proper posture, stretch, for Pete’s sake etcetera, you know this already, it’s a question of “Yes, I can. I will” — perhaps you can mosey over to Nada and see if their back support systems can help. They have cool stuff; you might find their Nada-chair to be the best thing to happen to you since the Internet.

If you’re the handy type of person and you prefer DIY projects, why not go to Tom Miller”s Woodware Designs (“Plans for low-stress computer furniture you can build”) and see what catches your eye. He also has free plans available for desks, shop furniture and more.

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