Does computer use cause neck osteoarthritis?
A chief executive of a major television company once said to me that one of the problems the anchors on his news shows had was thinking that they had to adjust their movements and actions to the cameras.
"The equipment should accommodate the person, not the other way around. I can have the producer move a camera. The person being filmed shouldn't have to move or adjust him or herself. If they tell us what they need, we can adjust the camera to them."
I don't think this executive knew how right he was. All too often, we flex our necks and contort our bodies in unnatural ways in order to use our technology. In this day, we shouldn't be uncomfortable using our technology. We should be adjusting our computers and phones so that we don't have to flex our necks unnaturally; bend our wrists, and slump in our seats. Our chairs should support our backs. Our computers should allow us to sit up straight, not flex our necks, and not strain our arms or hands.
If we use proper ergonomics, there is no reason that using a computer should contribute to neck pain or the development of neck osteoarthritis. However, how many of us actually utilize proper ergonomics? How many of us even know what proper ergonomics is?
Proper ergonomics allows you to perform an activity in optimal physiologic posture in order to minimize any stresses on the body. For example, while sitting at the computer, you should:
- Sit in a chair that provides a little lumbar support. Make sure that you sit with your buttocks against the back of the chair. The best chair in the world with the best lumbar support won't help your back if you don't sit with your buttocks at the back of your chair!
- Adjust the height of the chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor
- Adjust the keyboard so that your arms fall easily at your side and your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Your wrists should be in the neutral position while typing.
- Adjust the screen so that you don't have to flex your neck to see it. The screen should be at eye level and you should be looking straight at it.
- Your shoulder should be relaxed.
Proper ergonomics while using the computer allows your neck to be as relaxed as possible. Remember, too, that no matter how good your ergonomics is, you still need to take breaks! Every 20-30 minutes, get up and take a little walk. Return to your desk refreshed. Failing to utilize proper ergonomics can lead to chronic repetitive stresses on the neck, and this can ultimately lead to earlier onset of osteoarthritis in the neck. So take a few minutes to educate yourself about how to use the computer. Adjust your computer so that you are using it, and it is not using you. If you follow these simple tips, you should be able to use your computer comfortably and productively!