Tips to Stay Healthy for PC Users01 Dec 2011
Easy Ways to Prevent RSI
If you are chained to your PC or laptop during working hours or at home, there is a great chance that unless you take into account the ergonomics of your workstation or home desktop, you will notice health issues that may range from minor annoyances to teeth-grinding aches.
However, working (or gaming) healthily shouldn't be something that actually acts as a hindrance to smooth workflow. Most of the tips that actually help are very simple and can be followed by everyone. In this story we take a look at how you can take care of your eyes, ears, wrists and back when on your PC.
Please do keep in mind that these are only tips that may help prevent issues from occurring. This is not medical advice and should not be construed as such. If you've been suffering from consistent problems, a visit to a doctor should be your first step.
Usually, your eyes will be the first to signal that you've had a long stint staring at the screen. To ensure that your eyes are well taken care of there are a couple of really basic (and in retrospect, obvious sounding) things you can do.
First, if you browse a lot, increasing the font size of text on web pages to a size that's still comfortable, helps a lot. Use the "Ctrl" + "+" shortcut to zoom in to a page on any browser. Similarly, make sure that fonts and the virtual workspace on your word processor, spreadsheet application are zoomed to a level that's comfortable and usable.
Don't be this guy.
Make sure you're working in a room that's not too dim or bright (ideally, the lighting in the room should not be more than three times the brightness of your screen). Ambient light (for e.g. light from a window) should be dim and should not be glaring off your display or directly on your face.
If there are long documents that need reading, try getting a physical copy and reading them off the page.
Even if you are expecting to stay in front of the screen for hours, try taking a 10-20 second break for every 15-20 minutes of work. In these gaps, alternate between simply closing your eyes, and focusing on near (about 6-inches from your eyes) and distant (about 15-20 feet) objects in your vicinity. Also, remember to blink often since you tend to blink less when staring at the computer display.
Position your monitor at an ideal level and distance. The screen should be about 20-inches from your eyes (the lengths of a 30cm and a 15cm scale combined) and tilted up so that your eye level is always above the middle of the display.
A lot of people (including 3/4 of the PC World India team) like to listen to music when working. According to Dean Garstecki, a professor at Northwestern University, one of the best preventive methods for hearing issues is to try not to use earphones (especially in-ear ones) for more than 60 minutes in a day. Also, the ideal volume levels should be 60% or less than what your earphones offer. Most MP3 players now offer an "intelligent volume" option that restricts the maximum volume level and that's a handy way to keep audio volume in check.
Your wrists are usually the first casualty when RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury- the Achilles heel of most techies) hits. Since most regular PC users make over half-a-lakh keystrokes in a day, the position of your wrists becomes even more important. The ideal position is the neutral position with your hands over the keyboard in the most natural way possible. Try not to have your wrists bent towards your little fingers or towards your thumbs but somewhere in between. Also, don't type with your wrists bent in such a way that your palms are attached to the edge of the table.
And definitely not this guy.
Keep in mind that keyboards should be placed at a gentle angle and not at the steep angle that most attached keyboard stands offer. Mice should also be placed near the keyboard so that you don't have to reach out for it.
The most important thing to prevent back pain as a result of long hours in front of the PC is a good, comfortable chair. Choose a chair that is easy to adjust in terms of height and with adjustable armrests. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, your elbows should be positioned near about your waist when typing. A chair with wheels is also good since it allows you to make adjustments to the way you are sitting in front of the PC.
Try to take breaks in between so that you can do light, stretching exercises that do not put undue stress on joints or areas of the body that are aching.
Following these tips should help you if you find yourself in front of your PC more often than not. I would like to mention again that if you already find yourself in some discomfort when sitting in front of the PC, talk to your doctor.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Computer Eye Strain: How to Relieve It by Dr. Marc Grossman
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