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As if the desk wasn't enough to cope with, computers themselves tend to cause problems. Even with an ideal work station set-up, posture tends to deteriorate with long hours spent with a "sucked-in" forward stance. The computer screen tends to slowly draw its user inwards as if to absorb them into the work.

Over the last twenty five years or so, it has been interesting to note the change in the normal standing posture in the upper back and neck as more and more offices introduced desk-top computers. Patients increasingly arrived with a ram-rod thoracic spine with an abrupt and deep curve in the neck. However as laptops and tablets become more prevalent in offices, new changes are becoming apparent.

Laptops concentrate the area of attention into a very small space and tend to cause increased neck and shoulder tension. Tablets and "smart" phones increase this effect but with the added problem of tenosynovitis and "Repetitive Strain Injury" of the forearm tendons and muscles caused by gripping the devices. This was a problem that was very common in the age of typewriters but had receded for a while.


Moreover different software can worsen the problem. Accountancy software tends to be concerned with numbers rather than letters and so hand movements tend to be limited to the number pad on a traditional keyboard, reducing the overall movement of the arm but doing nothing for the underlying tension. Using the top row of numbers instead solves this difficulty.

Graphic design software and some computerised engineering management systems tend to use mouse movements rather a lot, leading to right forearm muscle problems and carpal tunnel syndrome. A partial solution for graphic design software is to make full use of the control keys rather than the screen menus.

How do we solve these problems? Apart from the obvious getting up and walking around solution, there are several technical fixes for laptops and tablets. Separating keyboard from screen is useful. Buying a plug-in keyboard for laptops or a wireless tablet keyboard allows the head to tip back to a more suitable angle. The computer screen can be placed on large books (traditionally, telephone directories) to increase this angle.

A more high-tech solution is a docking station. Graphic design and system management applications are helped by using a pen-like stylus and tablet- while still causing problems it reduces the angle of the wrist and reduces the compression through the carpel tunnel.

The ultimate solution is to gain control of your own muscles, the simplest way to do this is to practice de-tuning them via a simple breathing exercise- ask Edward Wilmot for more details

 

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