Is Your Computer Hurting You?

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We live very different lives than our ancestors did just a generation ago. Many more of us work in some sort of office environment than our parents’ generation. While being a digital device user may not carry as many physical hazards as factory or farm or other industrial work, it is not without any risk at all. Eyestrain, poor posture, headaches, and repetitive use of small muscle groups can cause a lot of discomfort. Here are a few things to keep in mind during your work day or while pulling that all-nighter before a test or big deadline:

Take regular breaks from your computer. I don’t just mean sit where you are and pick up a book or news paper or tablet. I mean get up, walk away from the work area. Give your eyes an opportunity to look at things a long ways away, even if it takes a few seconds to adjust your focus. Stretch. Make your muscles move. Inhale. Inhale deeply. Close your eyes for a full minute and let them rehydrate.

Make sure your workspace is user-friendly. Your screen or monitor should be as close to eye-level as possible, which means that if you spend a lot of time working on a laptop, your lap is not the place you need it to be all the time. If you spend too much time with your neck and head tilted down or up at too great an angle, you’ll start to feel it in your neck muscles and eyes.

Use good contrast on your work. Your eyes have to work harder if the contrast is lower.

You may need to adjust your work area to keep glare from lights or windows from reflecting off your screen and assaulting your eyes. Too much of that, and you’ll find yourself with fatigue, headaches, and sore muscles in your neck, head, and eyes. 

If you’re working in low light, play around with the screen or monitor settings to see if your eyes feel better with lower brightness settings. If they feel better immediately, they’ll tolerate longer work sessions.

Try to not keep your eyes open without blinking. Blinking is the method your eyes use for hydration, so if you try to keep from blinking, you’ll find them tired and sore pretty quickly.

Know your limits. You won’t be very productive with an eyestrain headache or deep-vein thrombosis from sitting too long in one position. Take care of yourself so that you don’t find yourself having to take time off to be sick.


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