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Computer Ergonomics

In this era we have seen the common workplace of Americans change dramatically. We are now placed in modular cubicles, doused in florescent lighting, and chained in front of a computer monitor and keyboard. Many American jobs necessitate the worker to spend the entire eight hours stationed in front of a monitor.

As a health care provider I see several common medical conditions that are causing the worker much discomfort and pain, most commonly carpal tunnel syndrome, and/or computer vision syndrome (CVS).

Dr. James Sheedy, Clinical Professor at School of Optometry, University of California, Berkley, explains that people who spend most of their time behind a computer suffer the most severe symptoms. However, anyone who uses a computer can be affected.

According to a study done at Berkley, here are some of the symptoms of CVS:

  • Eye Strain
  • Headache
  • Blurry near vision
  • Slowness in changing focus
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye irritation, trouble with contact lenses, after-images
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain

How to Prevent or Correct the Problems

  • Position your screen 4 to 9 inches below eye level so that you can look down at the center of the screen at a 10 degree to 20 degree angle. This helps prevent neck strain.
  • You may also need to adjust your chair height. Check your general comfort level. Are your feet flat on the floor? Can you maintain good posture easily? Do you need to make awkward eye or body movements to use a keyboard or refer to printed material?
  • Position your monitor squarely in front of you. Most jobs are best done if the screen is 20 to 28 inches from the eyes. Try to make your work space fit your body's needs.
  • If you are consulting a document, position it at the same distance as the screen.
  • Limit glare. Bright lights in your peripheral vision can create glare discomfort.
  • Position your desk lamp so it does not reflect in the screen, and so that the bright light is not in your peripheral vision.
  • If you are working near a window, correct the light with a window blind.
  • Limit reflections. A computer screen is glass and thus very reflective. Try shading the screen with a file folder to discover where the reflection is coming from. You can temporarily solve the problem by taping a file folder or piece of cardboard to the top or side of the monitor. An anti-reflection screen may help as well. When shopping for one, look for the seal of the American Optometric Association.
  • Clean your screen often.
  • If you are writing, try and work in large, legible type. You can reduce the size later.
  • A dry environment can be irritating to the eyes. Do not work in front of a fan. Use artificial tear drops if needed.
  • Have your eye glass prescription checked on a regular basis. Tell your eye doctor how much time you spend in front of a monitor. You may need a special pair of glasses for computer work.
  • Take breaks every 45 minutes when working on the monitor. Take a walk to the water cooler and get some water for a quick change of scenery.
  • Use a good chair for back support.

These are just some quick suggestions that have been found to be helpful in today's work place. If you are uncomfortable at your work station, it is not ergonomically correct for you. This is where you spend most of your waking day, so make the changes that are necessary, even if you have to go to your boss to make the changes. It's worth it. Nobody but you lives with the discomfort.