We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Mon 3 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Sitting fit

The problems that can come from sitting at a PC all day - such as the onset of repetitive strain injury (RSI) - are not to be sniffed at. WINDOWS explains how you can surf, type and search the web pain-free.

The problems that can come from sitting at a PC all day - such as the onset of repetitive strain injury (RSI) - are not to be sniffed at.

WINDOWS explains how you can surf, type and search the web pain-free.

If you sit in a bad posture and carry out repetitive movements - such as typing or moving a mouse around - for long periods of time, then scientific research suggests that you may well end up experiencing neck, limb or back pain (or indeed all three).

These conditions are collectively referred to as RSI, AKA overuse syndromes.

According to the US organisation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34% of all lost-workday injury and illness in the States is due to RSI-related problems.

An amazing statistic when you think about it, but at the same time a believable one when you consider how long many of us sit - such as those in hard-working, long-hour America - spend sat at our desks.

And whilst we can't offer you advice on how to persuade your boss to change your working hours, we can give you some tips that various RSI bodies and scientific research groups reckon will help minimise the negative effects of being PC-plugged. Let's get started.

Do sit properly

Slouching will get you nowhere, as slumping at your desk puts unnecessary strain on your neck and shoulders, and the surrounding muscles and tendons. So...

• Don't slouch.

• Keep your back straight and upright (slightly reclining your chair can help with this, as can keeping your feet flat on the floor).

• Your arms should be in a natural position (no more than a 90-degree angle between upper arm and forearm and flatten your keyboard to make sure your wrists lie straight).

Don't hammer away

Gripping the mouse hard and typing heavily put unnecessary strain on your muscles. Breathe deep and try to adopt a Muhammad Ali-style 'float like a butterfly' approach to your typing.

Do blow it up

Give your eyes and your posture a boost by increasing your monitor's resolution. This will ensure you don't strain your eyes, and that you don't hunch over in order to sit closer to your screen.

To change the resolution, go to your PC's desktop, right-click and choose Properties, then head for the Settings tab and try out the various configurations until you find a view that's comfortable.

Do take regular breaks

Yes everyone says it, and yes it is important.

RSI EXPLAINEDRSI ailments come about from structural changes to muscle fibers and an accompanying decrease in blood flow to the affected area (such as the hand or arm).

The immobile tissue in question, and the inflammation surrounding it, effectively compress the nerve.

This in turn can cause numbness or tingling, which sometimes leads to eventual weakness if the nerve is severely damaged.

The most common RSI injuries are tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The latter accounts for more than 41% of all repetitive motion disorders in the USA.

Women between the ages of 40 and 60 are most at risk from RSI.

Ideally, a quick wander around the office every half an hour, or at the very least five minutes an hour.

When you are away from your PC, do feel free to consciously stretch your muscles.

• If you're forgetful yet not keen on Microsoft Outlook's reminders, download 'Break Reminder' from Cheqsoft.com to make sure you get some exercise when you should.

• For stretching tips, see the RSI-specific tips at www.mydailyyoga.com/yoga/rsi.html.

Do keep warm

This is important because your muscles and tendons are more likely to get damaged when they're chilly.

• Avoid sitting right under the AC vent.

• Also, check to see if your mouse hand is colder than your other hand. If this is the case, rethink the position of your mouse and consider buying a more comfortable, RSI-friendly mouse mat such as one that features a gel cushion to rest your wrist.

Do make the change

It's useful to change or alternate your keyboard and mouse every few weeks or months, as different models will be slightly differently shaped and so put different amounts of stress on your various typing muscles.

• If possible, apply the same rotation policy to your chair and desk use.

Do look to the horizon

Your eyes strain and tear partly because you're staring continually at a close subject, so every so often turn your gaze to an object in the distance (ideally some eight metres away). And don't forget to blink.

Don't type uphill

The best keyboard posture, in terms of your lower arm and wrist muscles, is what's known as a 'negative slope'. In other words, when the keyboard is below the height of your elbows (when you are seated).

Do see your doctor

...if you experience ongoing discomfort when sat at your desk. The longer you leave a problem, the worse it will likely become.

DO BE ERGO-AWAREIf you experience hand, lower arm or wrist ache, consider giving a so-called ‘ergonomic' keyboard a whirl.

These models generally separate the hands and often include a wrist support to keep the wrists level (rather than them pointing upwards).

Professor Peter Buckle, who works at the Robens Centre for Health Ergonomics at the UK's University of Surrey, has written RSI reports for the European Union and suggests that such products can "overcome some of the problems", in that they can help effect a change in a user's posture, in turn lessening the risk that they will go on to develop RSI (AKA an ‘upper-limb disorder').

Ergonomic keyboards are available in most retail stores across the region, from vendors such as Microsoft and Logitech.

The latter's US $132 'Cordless Desktop Wave' keyboard for instance features what the company calls a 'gradual wave-shaped contour', which means the height of its keys varies in order to best fit the different lengths of a typical user's fingers.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.